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Protect the world's deltas, experts urge

Date:
December 3, 2014
Source:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Summary:
Extensive areas of the world's deltas -- which accommodate some of the world's major cities -- will be drowned in the next century by rising sea levels, according to new work. A geologist calls for maintenance efforts to be started now to avert the loss of vast expanses of coastline, and the consequent losses of ecological services, economic and social crises, and large-scale migrations.
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Extensive areas of the world's deltas -- which accommodate major cities such as Shanghai, Dhaka and Bangkok -- will be drowned in the next century by rising sea levels, according to a Comment piece in this week's Nature. In the article, Dr. Liviu Giosan, a geologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and colleagues call for maintenance efforts to be started now to avert the loss of vast expanses of coastline, and the consequent losses of ecological services, economic and social crises, and large-scale migrations.

The authors state the problems start upstream: deltas are built from sediments deposited at the mouths of rivers, but dams and river engineering have lowered rates of sediment flow. The Nile and the Indus, for example, carry 98 percent and 94 percent less mud respectively than they did 100 years ago. At the coast, rising seas resulting from warmer global temperatures are eroding delta plains, increasing the chance of flooding. Coastal lands lower than a meter in elevation will be inundated within a century.

Lack of quantitative knowledge of basic delta processes is hindering efforts to develop maintenance strategies for deltas, the authors say. At the same time, the role of healthy marshes in coastal processes needs to be more fully understood. Giosan and colleagues call for river sediment flows to be restored, and natural land-building methods to be exploited in delta plains under worldwide monitoring programs coordinated and guided by United Nations committee of experts.


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Materials provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Liviu Giosan, James Syvitski, Stefan Constantinescu, John Day. Climate change: Protect the world's deltas. Nature, 2014; 516 (7529): 31 DOI: 10.1038/516031a

Cite This Page:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Protect the world's deltas, experts urge." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203142626.htm>.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (2014, December 3). Protect the world's deltas, experts urge. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203142626.htm
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Protect the world's deltas, experts urge." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203142626.htm (accessed April 21, 2024).

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