Saving the Marshes: A Game Theory Approach


What Are Marshes?

Marshes or marshlands are by definition: “an area of low-lying land that is flooded in wet seasons or at high tide, and typically remains waterlogged at all times.” –  Google

But what are they really? From my perspective, the marshes are a natural barrier that protects the inland  area from flooding whether it be from hurricanes, strong storms, or high seas. They also provide shelter to hundreds if not thousands of species of animals, insects, fish, and plants; creating a diverse ecosystem that provides economic resources for local communities. That is a drastically different definition than the one google gave right?

Why Is This A Problem?

Much like how running water erodes rock, the marshes are eroding as a result of numerous factors such as: hurricanes, deforestation, levees, dams, oil spills, and fires. There are quite a few negatives influences on our marshes that make maintaining them an uphill battle. Since the 50s, the South and more importantly Louisiana have been losing coastline and marshlands at an increasingly dangerous rate.


To get a better understanding of this, click here here  . As of right now, the marshes are receding fairly quickly, which is leading to the growing concerns of many environmentalists. A crucial barrier in protecting the southern coastline is eroding away and there is little being done to stop it.

What Can We Do?

So now that you why this environmental feature is important, how does one solve the problem of eroding marshes? Luckily there are a number of solutions that each provide different benefits to the local and regional communities.

  • Cleanup the marshlands
  • Replant the marshes
  • Construct artificial sandbars and islands

These options provide a variety of benefits that improve the environment while also offering other economic consequences. So to better illustrate what the payouts of these strategies are, we are going to use Game Theory to model the payout of the game.

This will be the game matrix, on the top (or columns) will be the strategies for us to chose. On the left (or rows) will be the amount of volunteers and resources we can use. The values that correspond to two intersecting strategies (think (x,y) pairs) are the payouts of those two strategies being played. The opponent in this game is mother nature; there are a number of potential weather patterns she can chose such as hurricanes, heavy rain, and high winds. These of course affect what the payout is depending on what the strategy the governor chooses. The goal for the governor is to retain the highest payout possible. Mother Nature will be trying to get the smallest number, which sadly means she we be trying to cause the most destruction.

Create Levees Replant Construct Sandbars
Hurricanes  8 8 10
High Winds 4 6 5
Heavy Flooding 9 8 5


Through movement-diagrams, the optimal strategy in this game is (High Winds, Replant). This gets the highest average payout against across all strategies is 6.


While this Game Theory approach may offer the most optimal solution, the game cannot model a truly realistic solution. However, it does provide insight as to what areas of protection should receive the most attention, which adds on to a layered system of defense.


If you would like to, please fill out the form below as I am interested in how strong weather affects other communities around the world. Hopefully at the end of the conference I will be able to present the data gathered from this survey to illustrate the state of weather and the environment around the world.


Map info –

Image 1

Image 2 

Share this project