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Impact of dams and climate change on suspended sediment flux to the Mekong delta

Impact of dams and climate change on suspended sediment flux to the Mekong delta
Impact of dams and climate change on suspended sediment flux to the Mekong delta

The livelihoods of millions of people living in the world's deltas are deeply interconnected with the sediment dynamics of these deltas. In particular a sustainable supply of fluvial sediments from upstream is critical for ensuring the fertility of delta soils and for promoting sediment deposition that can offset rising sea levels. Yet, in many large river catchments this supply of sediment is being threatened by the planned construction of large dams. In this study, we apply the INCA hydrological and sediment model to the Mekong River catchment in South East Asia. The aim is to assess the impact of several large dams (both existing and planned) on the suspended sediment fluxes of the river. We force the INCA model with a climate model to assess the interplay of changing climate and sediment trapping caused by dam construction. The results show that historical sediment flux declines are mostly caused by dams built in PR China and that sediment trapping will increase in the future due to the construction of new dams in PDR Lao and Cambodia. If all dams that are currently planned for the next two decades are built, they will induce a decline of suspended sediment flux of 50% (47–53% 90% confidence interval (90%CI)) compared to current levels (99 Mt/year at the delta apex), with potentially damaging consequences for local livelihoods and ecosystems.

Climate change, INCA model, Large dams, Mekong River, Sediment transport
0048-9697
Bussi, Gianbattista
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Darby, Stephen E.
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Whitehead, Paul G.
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Jin, Li
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Dadson, Simon J.
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Voepel, Hal E.
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Vasilopoulos, Grigorios
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Hackney, Christopher R.
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Hutton, Craig
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Berchoux, Tristan
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Parsons, Daniel R.
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Nicholas, Andrew
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Bussi, Gianbattista
cfb5a011-8549-496c-91ea-02f733d8d4d1
Darby, Stephen E.
4c3e1c76-d404-4ff3-86f8-84e42fbb7970
Whitehead, Paul G.
5dfb7549-7f3d-4e18-b99b-db00418fdd5c
Jin, Li
fb1eef11-3d16-41c1-b9e5-0ff887270f75
Dadson, Simon J.
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Voepel, Hal E.
86b40220-21be-436a-8733-9dbaf23c2a13
Vasilopoulos, Grigorios
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Hackney, Christopher R.
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Hutton, Craig
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Berchoux, Tristan
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Parsons, Daniel R.
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Nicholas, Andrew
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Bussi, Gianbattista, Darby, Stephen E., Whitehead, Paul G., Jin, Li, Dadson, Simon J., Voepel, Hal E., Vasilopoulos, Grigorios, Hackney, Christopher R., Hutton, Craig, Berchoux, Tristan, Parsons, Daniel R. and Nicholas, Andrew (2021) Impact of dams and climate change on suspended sediment flux to the Mekong delta. Science of the Total Environment, 755 (Part 1), [142468]. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142468).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The livelihoods of millions of people living in the world's deltas are deeply interconnected with the sediment dynamics of these deltas. In particular a sustainable supply of fluvial sediments from upstream is critical for ensuring the fertility of delta soils and for promoting sediment deposition that can offset rising sea levels. Yet, in many large river catchments this supply of sediment is being threatened by the planned construction of large dams. In this study, we apply the INCA hydrological and sediment model to the Mekong River catchment in South East Asia. The aim is to assess the impact of several large dams (both existing and planned) on the suspended sediment fluxes of the river. We force the INCA model with a climate model to assess the interplay of changing climate and sediment trapping caused by dam construction. The results show that historical sediment flux declines are mostly caused by dams built in PR China and that sediment trapping will increase in the future due to the construction of new dams in PDR Lao and Cambodia. If all dams that are currently planned for the next two decades are built, they will induce a decline of suspended sediment flux of 50% (47–53% 90% confidence interval (90%CI)) compared to current levels (99 Mt/year at the delta apex), with potentially damaging consequences for local livelihoods and ecosystems.

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manuscript_sediment_Mekong_GBussi_notrackchanges - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 15 September 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 28 September 2020
Published date: 10 February 2021
Keywords: Climate change, INCA model, Large dams, Mekong River, Sediment transport

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 444632
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/444632
ISSN: 0048-9697
PURE UUID: 6fd90d2e-0743-4729-bc8e-cd60cde8ac83
ORCID for Stephen E. Darby: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8778-4394
ORCID for Craig Hutton: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5896-756X

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 28 Oct 2020 17:30
Last modified: 28 Sep 2021 04:01

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Contributors

Author: Gianbattista Bussi
Author: Paul G. Whitehead
Author: Li Jin
Author: Simon J. Dadson
Author: Hal E. Voepel
Author: Grigorios Vasilopoulos
Author: Craig Hutton ORCID iD
Author: Tristan Berchoux
Author: Daniel R. Parsons
Author: Andrew Nicholas

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