Mississippi river could fight Gulf oil spill

      There is finally a saviour for coastal wetlands of Louisiana, currently threatened by the Gulf oil spill - the Mississippi river. Louisiana wetlands "play a vital role in protecting New Orleans from hurricane damage, providing habitat for wildlife, supporting economically important fisheries, and maintaining water quality," says Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, director of NCED. Scientists believe that Mississippi river's hydrology may help reduce oil onshore. Robert Twilley and Guerry Holm of Louisiana State University (LSU) are investigating the degree to which two delta wetland characteristics may help mitigate oil contamination. The pair is performing baseline and damage assessments on the plants and soils of, and comparing oil degradation processes in, freshwater and saltwater Louisiana wetlands. "Since the Mississippi River is currently at a relatively high stage, we expect the river's high volume of freshwater to act as a hydrologic barrier, keeping oil from moving into the Wax Lake Delta from the sea," says Twilley. "The Mississippi River's 'plumbing' provides a potential benefit to reducing the movement of oil onshore from shelf waters," he adds. The plan is to build concrete gates within the levees of the river to allow water to flow to specific coastal basins and flood ways. However, as the river stage falls, the team will have to decide the most optimum way of distributing this freshwater resource.

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