Monday, June 17, 2013

Nature's Fortune

The current issue of Nature Conservancy magazine includes several positive stories about environmental restoration. One of the most interesting is an excerpt from Nature's Fortune, a new book by Mark Tercek and Jonathan Adams.  The book describes economic benefits of environmental protection and restoration; the example of Mollicy Farms in Louisiana is particularly instructive.

The farms -- adjacent to the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge -- were made possible by the privately-funded construction of 17 miles of levees, enclosing an area about the size of the town I live in, and separating it from the nearby floodplain. After a half century of effort with various crops, the land owners decided to sell the land back to the public, and they were fortunate that the Federal government was willing to buy it.

As the authors explain, removing the levees is an impossibility, but everyone now agrees on the ecological -- and economic -- benefits of creating significant breaches, so that the land can once again provide some of the hydrologic and ecological benefits it once did.

Breaching the levees is a matter of civil engineering, of course, but choosing where to breach them to greatest effect is a matter of fluvial biogeomorphology. That is to say, physical geography!

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