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Post Hurricane Katrina Flights Over Louisiana's Barrier Islands

Fort Livingston in Grand TerreThe Chandeleur Islands, a chain of barrier islands off Louisiana's coast, are not only a first line of protection against hurricanes for New Orleans, but are also vital wildlife habitat. USGS scientists flew over the islands in June 2005, and again on August 30th and September 1st, after Katrina hit. These post-hurricane flights revealed that the entire chain had been reduced in area by half, and that seagrass beds were significantly damaged. Endangered brown pelicans; sandwich, royal, and caspian terns; and black skimmers (among others) nest on these islands, and although most have completed this year's nesting, USGS researchers are concerned about future nesting success. Depending on how (and if) the islands recover, these birds may not find nesting places, resulting in reduced bird numbers. Shorebirds also use the island's shallow areas for feeding. Species that depend on seagrass beds include marine mammals, turtles, and fish, as well as migratory species such as redhead ducks. The Chandeleurs are essential stopover habitat for Neotropical birds migrating to and from Central America, and it is fall migration time now. Hurricane winds may have swept some birds off course, and habitat destruction may prevent others to use the area. This will be especially critical in spring when these birds cross the entire Gulf, using the chain to rest before continuing their northward flight.

Post Hurricane Flight August 30th 2005
USGS Scientists Begin to Assess Damages to Federal and State Resources in Katrina’s Path

Return to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Special Feature
Photographs from the NWRC Rescue Effort
Before and After Photographs

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