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River delta shoreline reworking and erosion in the Mediterranean and Black Seas: the potential roles of fluvial sediment starvation and other factors

Abstract : The Mediterranean basin (including the Black Sea) is characterized by a plethora of deltas that have developed in a wave-influenced setting. Many of these deltas are sourced in sediments by river catchments that have been variably dammed. The vulnerability status of a selection of ten deltas subject to different levels of reduction in fluvial sediment supply following damming was analysed by quantifying changes in delta protrusion area and protrusion angle over the last 30 years. The rationale for choosing these two metrics, which do not require tricky calculations of longshore bedload transport volumes and river `influence', is that as sediment supply wanes, increasing relative efficiency of waves leads to longshore redistribution of reworked sediments and progressive `flattening' of the delta protrusion. The results show that eight of the ten deltas (Nile, Rhone, Ebro, Ceyhan, Arno, Ombrone, Moulouya, Medjerda) are in erosion, whereas two (Danube, Po) show stability, but the statistical relationship between change in delta protrusion area and sediment flux reduction is poor, thus suggesting that the role of dams in causing delta shoreline erosion may have been over-estimated. But this poor relationship could also be due to a long temporal lag between dam construction and bedload removal and transport to the coast downstream of dams, and, where the delta protrusion is being eroded, to bedload trapping by shoreline engineering structures and by elongating delta-flank spits. Other potential influential factors in shoreline change include subsidence, sea-level rise, storminess, exceptional river floods, and managed sediment releases downstream of dams. A longer observation period and high-resolution sediment-budget studies will be necessary to determine more definitively to which extent continued trapping of sediment behind dams will impact overall delta stability in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Mitigation of delta erosion is likely to become costlier under continued sediment starvation and sea-level rise.
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Manon Besset, Edward J. Anthony, F. Sabatier. River delta shoreline reworking and erosion in the Mediterranean and Black Seas: the potential roles of fluvial sediment starvation and other factors. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, University of California Press, 2017, 5, ⟨10.1525/elementa.139⟩. ⟨hal-01765636⟩

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