Tidal controls on river delta morphology

A.J.F. Hoitink, Z. B. Wang, B. Vermeulen, Y. Huismans, K. Kästner

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Abstract

River delta degradation has been caused by extraction of natural resources, sediment retention by reservoirs, and sea-level rise. Despite global concerns about these issues, human activity in the world's largest deltas intensifies. Harbour development, construction of flood defences, sand mining and land reclamation emerge as key contemporary factors that exert an impact on delta morphology. Tides interacting with river discharge can play a crucial role in the morphodynamic development of deltas under pressure. Emerging insights into tidal controls on river delta morphology suggest that-despite the active morphodynamics in tidal channels and mouth bar regions-tidal motion acts to stabilize delta morphology at the landscape scale under the condition that sediment import during low flows largely balances sediment export during high flows. Distributary channels subject to tides show lower migration rates and are less easily flooded by the river because of opposing non-linear interactions between river discharge and the tide. These interactions lead to flow changes within channels, and a more uniform distribution of discharge across channels. Sediment depletion and rigorous human interventions in deltas, including storm surge defence works, disrupt the dynamic morphological equilibrium and can lead to erosion and severe scour at the channel bed, even decades after an intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-645
Number of pages9
JournalNature geoscience
Volume10
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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Hoitink, A. J. F., Wang, Z. B., Vermeulen, B., Huismans, Y., & Kästner, K. (2017). Tidal controls on river delta morphology. Nature geoscience, 10(9), 637-645. https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo3000