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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2017-24
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
04 May 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).
Late Holocene evolution of a coupled, mud-dominated delta plain–chenier plain system, coastal Louisiana, USA
Marc P. Hijma1,2, Zhixiong Shen1,3, Torbjörn E. Törnqvist1, and Barbara Mauz4 1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118-5698, USA
2Department of Applied Geology and Geophysics, Deltares, P.O. Box 85467, 3508 AL Utrecht, the Netherlands
3Department of Marine Science, Coastal Carolina University, P.O. Box 261954, Conway, South Carolina 29528, USA
4Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZT, UK
Abstract. Major deltas and their adjacent coastal plains are commonly linked by means of coast-parallel fluxes of water, sediment, and nutrients. Observations of the evolution of these interlinked systems over centennial to millennial timescales are essential to understand the interaction between point sources of sediment discharge (i.e., deltaic distributaries) and adjacent coastal plains across large spatial (i.e., hundreds of kilometres) scales. This information is needed to constrain future generations of numerical models to predict coastal evolution in relation to climate change and other human activities. Here we examine the coastal plain adjacent to the Mississippi River Delta, one of the world’s largest deltas. We use a refined chronology based on 22 new optically stimulated luminescence and 22 new radiocarbon ages to test the hypothesis that cyclic Mississippi subdelta shifting has influenced the evolution of the adjacent Chenier Plain (CP). We show that over the past 3 kyr, accumulation rates in the CP were generally 0–1 MT yr−1. However, between 1.2 and 0.6 ka, when the Mississippi River shifted to a position more proximal to the CP, these rates increased to 2.9 ± 1.1 MT yr−1 or 0.5–1.5 % of the total sediment load of the Mississippi River. We conclude that CP evolution during the past 3 kyr was partly a direct consequence of shifting subdeltas, in addition to changing regional sediment sources and modest rates of relative sea-level rise. These findings have implications for Mississippi River sediment diversions that are currently being planned to restore portions of this vulnerable coast. Only if such diversions are planned in the western portion of the Mississippi Delta Plain they could potentially contribute to sustaining the CP shoreline.

Citation: Hijma, M. P., Shen, Z., Törnqvist, T. E., and Mauz, B.: Late Holocene evolution of a coupled, mud-dominated delta plain–chenier plain system, coastal Louisiana, USA, Earth Surf. Dynam. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2017-24, in review, 2017.
Marc P. Hijma et al.
Marc P. Hijma et al.
Marc P. Hijma et al.

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Short summary
We show that the evolution of the Chenier Plain, > 200 km west of the Mississippi Delta, in the last 3000 yr was influenced by changes in the position of the main river mouth, resulting in a waning and waxing sediment source. In addition, local sediment sources and sea-level rise played a role. This information is important in light of the planned river diversions to battle the dramatic land loss in coastal Louisiana. If well planned, the diversions could slow down Chenier Plain erosion as well.
We show that the evolution of the Chenier Plain,  200 km west of the Mississippi Delta, in the...
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