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Mississippi River hydrology may hold a possible answer for protecting fragile Gulf wetlands.
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Gulf Oil Spill: Mississippi River Hydrology May Help Reduce Oil Onshore

Scientists are currently tracking the effects of the oil spill on the wetlands of the Louisiana coast. Robert Twilley and Guerry Holm of Louisiana State University (LSU) want to know more about the role the Mississippi River will play in keeping it from contaminating the coast and wetlands in this part of the Gulf of Mexico.

These scientists say that the slope of the water's surface from a river delta to the sea and the time it takes water to move through a wetland at a river's mouth are important to understanding how delta wetlands will respond to the oil spill.

"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.

Twilley and Holm are testingthe plants and soils of freshwater and saltwater Louisiana wetlands to learn of any damage.

"The Mississippi River's 'plumbing' provides a potential benefit to reducing the movement of oil onshore from shelf waters," says Twilley.

Last modified August 20, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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