Erosion potential of the Yangtze Delta under sediment starvation and climate change

H. F. Yang, S. L. Yang*, K. H. Xu, H. Wu, B. W. Shi, Q. Zhu, W. X. Zhang, Z. Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Deltas are widely threatened by sediment starvation and climate change. Erosion potential is an important indicator of delta vulnerability. Here, we investigate the erosion potential of the Yangtze Delta. We found that over the past half century the Yangtze's sediment discharge has decreased by 80% due to the construction of >50,000 dams and soil conservation, whereas the wind speed and wave height in the delta region have increased by 5-7%, and the sea level has risen at a rate of 3 mm/yr. According to hydrodynamic measurements and analyses of seabed sediments, the period when bed shear stress due to combined current-wave action under normal weather conditions exceeds the critical bed shear stress for erosion (τcr) accounts for 63% of the total observed period on average and can reach 100% during peak storms. This explains why net erosion has occurred in some areas of the subaqueous delta. We also found that the increase with depth of τcr is very gradual in the uppermost several metres of the depositional sequence. We therefore expect that the Yangtze subaqueous delta will experience continuous erosion under sediment starvation and climate change in the next decades of this century or even a few centuries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10535
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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