Image
Turbidity processed imagery using 2020 Landsat 8 OLI/TIRS data. The Chandeleur Islands located on the southeastern coast of Louisiana are displayed. Shades of yellow indicate areas with high turbidity and darker shades of blue indicate areas with low turbidity. Concentrating on areas with higher turbidity allows the coastal restoration experts to know where land erosion occurs and identify ideal areas for seagrass revegetation.  Keywords: Water Resources, Turbidity, Seagrass, Breton National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR), Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana

The barrier islands of Louisiana’s Breton National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR) are disappearing due to sea level rise, extreme hurricanes, sediment starvation, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This decline in land area has damaged important bird habitat and reduced the islands’ ability to protect coastal Louisiana from storm surges. The persistence of the islands is synergetic to that of the surrounding seagrass beds; seagrass binds together land, protecting the islands from erosion, and the loss of land exposes the seagrass and accelerates its decline. Furthermore, seagrass is independently important, absorbing excess nutrients and providing habitat for marine ecosystems. Here we present the Tool for Coastal Remote Ecological Observations in Louisiana (Tool CREOL), a Google Earth Engine Tool built to easily access data from Landsat 5 TM, Landsat 7 ETM+, Landsat 8 OLI, and Aqua and Terra MODIS. We show, using time series and maps generated using the tool, how land area and seagrass have responded to destructive events from the past 36 years (1984-2021). In only 7 years, Hurricane Georges (1998), Ivan (2004), and Katrina (2005) reduced land area by approximately 85%, accompanied by a major decline in seagrass extent. Tool CREOL will have strategic utility in planning upcoming restoration and revegetation efforts planned by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in the Breton National Wildlife Refuge and will provide up-to-date monitoring of the results of that project. The tool serves as a basic model which can be adapted to study similar coastal regions in the world.