Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Edwin H. Hammond

Committee Members

T.H. Schmudde, J.B. Rehder, M.B. Badenhop


During the past two centuries, the flat, swampy, forested Atchafalaya Basin has represented a unique, natural and economic region of Louisiana. It has also been the scene of unusually rapid environmental responses to a series of human activities. This study attempts to determine how man's activities have produced environmental changes and how these, in turn, affected the potential of the area for human use. To this end, the environmental, economic, and technological climate of each important period in the area's development has been examined and assessed.

Data for the investigation was obtained primarily from historical records of early events in the basin, from reports, maps, aerial photographs, and other records of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, from published materials in the Corps' library, from field research, and from numerous personal interviews, letters and unpublished personal and organization records.

The climate, soil, and annual inundation regime of the basin provided an unusually favorable environment for the development of a virgin forest dominated by bald cypress of exceptional value. This resource provided the basis for the first major economic development of the area, and its removal was followed by the growth of a less valuable mixed-species forest that exists today. The single most important factor producing changes in land utilization and environment during the last half-century has been the conversion of the Atchafalaya Basin into a controlled floodway.

Evidence is presented to Indicate that the basin is being rapidly changed physically, chiefly through greatly increased discharge, enhanced rate of sedimentation, and changes in the character of the sediments. These changes are becoming noticeable in the second-growth cypress. These various trends are causing growing concern among numerous individuals and organizations interested in the basin. The influence of these concerned parties will play a part in determining whether the area will be or can be maintained as a unique region.

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