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Agriculture and Forestry
Farms and forests contribute over $10 billion each year to Louisiana's economy, making both agriculture and forestry enormously important industries in the state. Both industries are also highly sensitive to climate change. Specific impacts could include the following:
- In the delta region, where drier conditions are projected in the immediate coastal zone, rice production is likely to decrease, given its high sensitivity to increased salinity.
- Under the drier conditions projected in the immediate coastal zone, additional irrigation will be required to maintain the production of cotton, soybean, sorghum, hay, sugarcane, and vegetables. If sufficient irrigation water is not available, production cannot be maintained at current levels. The fertilization effect from elevated levels of carbon dioxide will increase productivity only with sufficient irrigation.
- The managed shortleaf and loblolly pine tree forests, which contributed over $7 billion to Louisiana's economy in 1997, are vulnerable to drought and fire in areas that could become drier. If the drier climate scenario were to play out, savannas and grasslands would expand at the expense of forests, particularly in areas further inland from the coast. Wetter climate conditions, on the other hand, would increase the productivity of hardwoods at the expense of softwoods.
- Increased fire frequency under drier conditions would require that forest managers change their forest and fire management practices, including changes in tree species, stand density, fertilization, and rotation length. Extreme, long-lasting droughts would seriously damage forests in the long-term.
- Warmer, wetter conditions would increase the risk of forestry pests such as the southern pine bark beetle, and frequent disturbance from fires and storms would favor the spread of invasive species, such as Chinese tallow, over native species.
Brown Pelican - South Florida Water Management District.
Rice harvesting - USDA Photo, G. McMichael.
Chinese tallow - E. Siemann.
• Apalachicola Bay
• Big Thicket
• Laguna Madre
• Mississippi Delta