Louisiana Coastal Initiative

White Ibis flock over Louisiana wetlands
Audubon

Louisiana Coastal Initiative

For thousands of years, vast and fertile wetlands at the mouth of our continent's mightiest river have sustained a teeming multitude of life - from birds whose lives span the hemisphere to millions of people all across the United States. The magnificent Mississippi River Delta ecosystem in Louisiana supports 100 million migratory, nesting and wintering birds. The wetlands also serve as nurseries for countless marine organisms, including many commercially important seafood species. To human communities, wetlands offer food, energy, transportation, recreation, and protection from storms and flooding.

But today, the deltaic ecosystem is collapsing, losing its ability to sustain life and disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming rate. Since the 1930s, more than 2,000 square miles of marsh, swamp and barrier islands have disintegrated into open water, largely due to human interference in river flows and wetland hydrology. A huge 'dead zone' forms in the Gulf of Mexico every year as excess fertilizer and other pollutants course down the Mississippi River and into the gulf, stimulating massive microorganism growth, which depletes oxygen levels in the water. And beginning in 2010, waters, wetlands, birds, marine life and human communities all came under a new kind of attack as tens of millions of gallons of crude oil gushed from a blown-out well in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Life here is tenacious, though, and the Mississippi River remains one of the most powerful natural forces on the continent. Audubon and its partners are committed to a rebuilding a healthy, resilient and productive Mississippi River Delta so that birds, people and all the other life endemic to this very special part of the world will find ways to thrive well into the future.