Publication: Anatomy of Mississippi Delta growth and its implications for coastal restoration

Reference publication
Anatomy of Mississippi Delta growth and its implications for coastal restoration, Elizabeth L. Chamberlain,Torbjörn E. Törnqvist (Tulane University), Zhixiong Shen (Coastal Carolina University), Barbara Mauz (University of Liverpool, Liverpool, University of Salzburg), Jakob Wallinga (WUR), Science Advances  11 Apr 2018: Vol. 4, no. 4, eaar4740, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar4740

The decline of several of the world’s largest deltas has spurred interest in expensive coastal restoration projects to make these economically and ecologically vital regions more sustainable. The success of these projects depends, in part, on our understanding of how delta plains evolve over time scales longer than the instrumental record. Building on a new set of optically stimulated luminescence ages, we demonstrate that a large portion (~10,000 km2) of the late Holocene river–dominated Mississippi Delta grew in a radially symmetric fashion for almost a millennium before abandonment. Sediment was dispersed by deltaic distributaries that formed by means of bifurcations at the coeval shoreline and remained active throughout the life span of this landform. Progradation rates (100 to 150 m/year) were surprisingly constant, producing 6 to 8 km2 of new land per year. This shows that robust rates of land building were sustained under preindustrial conditions. However, these rates are several times lower than rates of land loss over the past century, indicating that only a small portion of the Mississippi Delta may be sustainable in a future world with accelerated sea-level rise.

Corresponding author
Elizabeth Chamberlain, Department of Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vanderbilt University

Read more
>> Full article
>> Mississippi-delta verliest sneller land dan natuurlijke uitbouw kan compenseren (article in Dutch on WUR website)
>> Press release: National Science Foundation
>> Washington Post: Seas are rising too fast to save much of the Mississippi River Delta, scientists say
>> Nola, local Louisiana Newspaper: Mississippi River can't keep up with land loss in delta, researchers find
>> NPR, National Public Radio: Louisiana Wants To Use The Muddy Mississippi To Build Up Its Coast 

Science Advances
Friday 11 May 2018
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