The Mississippi River Delta, the seventh largest deltaic region in the world, was built over 6,000 years, created from annual deposits of fresh water, sediments and nutrients as the River periodically flooded. These deposits are derived from a drainage basin comprising 41 percent of the continental United States.
From the Mississippi's waters, an amazingly complex ecosystem of freshwater swamp, saltwater marshes and forests grew into 4 million acres, or 6,000 square miles of wetlands, an area twice the size of the Everglades, an area that represents 25 percent of the nation's coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states and 40 percent of its saltwater marshes. There is little wonder it has come to be referred to as America's WETLAND.
Through the centuries, this fragile wetland has been subsiding under its own weight, only to be rebuilt annually by new sediments and nutrients, the natural process for sustainability.
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There are solutions to restoring the values of the coast that science agrees must move foreward immediately. A comprehensive process is required, knowing that success must include both integrated ecosystem restoration and hurricane protection - often called "multiple lines of defense" which was the goal of Louisiana's Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. AWF stresses the notion of "multiple lines of offense" - the urgent need for aggressive, large-scale pro-action to address the calamitous loss of land. And in the rush toward more politically popular protection measures, restoration cannot be left behind or we will pay the price of wholesale ecosystem collapse, where other short term and expensive measures will be sacrificed.
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