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The Atchafalaya River Basin

Water Tension

Join TNC freshwater scientist, Dr. Bryan Piazza, on a journey in the Atchafalaya River Basin.


Crawfish are often called "Mudbugs" after the mud homes they build.

The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana has identified the Atchafalaya River Basin as one of the state’s most important natural habitats. This one-million acre wetland is one of the few relatively intact major river basins in North America, and contains the only actively building delta system in the Gulf of Mexico. Like other river basins worldwide, the Atchafalaya contains an especially high level of biodiversity of plants and resident and migratory fish and wildlife that is vital not only to local, regional and global biodiversity but also to the people who make their living from the Atchafalaya’s lands and waters. In fact, the value of the Basin’s services (flood control, carbon storage, navigation, oil and gas resources, forest, fish and wildlife resources, and nutrient reduction) is valued at billions of dollars annually. But the future ecological and economic viability of the Atchafalaya is at risk and has spurred an initiative to conserve and restore its resources. 

Conservation and restoration in the Basin will require a combination of approaches, and TNC has created The Atchafalaya Project to engage TNC’s strengths in partnership building, science, and land protection to ensure that it remains a magnificent American landscape. First, we have worked with partners to develop and maintain a strong scientific baseline for conservation and restoration. Next, we are working with the state, partners, and stakeholders to develop a decision making process that fully engages stakeholders in designing the future Atchafalaya, places landowner vision at the forefront, and promotes science-based decisions. Lastly, we will launch a comprehensive land-protection and restoration program for the Atchafalaya River Basin by acquiring initial tracts of forested wetland to serve as a foundation for a new Atchafalaya Basin Preserve. This platform preserve builds on our previous work and establishes a place from which we can work with land owners, agencies, universities, the oil and gas industry, barge industry and others to implement key strategies for restoration and protection. This Preserve and TNC’s comprehensive Atchafalaya Project will help protect a vitally important freshwater system that provides flood protection for millions of Americans, livelihoods and recreation for countless Louisianans, critical habitat for hundreds of fish and wildlife species, a source of drinking water, and the heartbeat of a unique American heritage and culture.

Dr. Bryan Piazza, Louisiana Director of Freshwater and Marine Science, recently published a book The Atchafalaya River Basin: History and Ecology of an American Wetland.  Learn more.

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