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Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 1;7:41735. doi: 10.1038/srep41735.

New evidence of Yangtze delta recession after closing of the Three Gorges Dam.

Luo XX1,2,3,4, Yang SL2, Wang RS2,5, Zhang CY6, Li P1.

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Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Research, School of Marine Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China.
State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China.
State-province Joint Engineering Laboratory of Estuarine Hydraulic Technology, Guangzhou 510275, China.
Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Marine Resources and Coastal Engineering, Guangzhou 510275, China.
The Second Institute of Oceanography, State Oceanic Administration, Hangzhou 310012, China.
Survey Bureau of Hydrology and Water Resources of Changjiang Estuary, Shanghai 200136, China.


Many deltas are likely undergoing net erosion because of rapid decreases in riverine sediment supply and rising global sea levels. However, detecting erosion in subaqueous deltas is usually difficult because of the lack of bathymetric data. In this study, by comparing bathymetric data between 1981 and 2012 and surficial sediment grain sizes from the Yangtze subaqueous delta front over the last three decades, we found severe erosion and significant sediment coarsening in recent years since the construction of Three Gorges Dam (TGD), the largest dam in the world. We attributed these morphological and sedimentary variations mainly to the human-induced drastic decline of river sediment discharge. Combined with previous studies based on bathymetric data from different areas of the same delta, we theorize that the Yangtze subaqueous delta is experiencing overall (net) erosion, although local accumulation was also noted. We expect that the Yangtze sediment discharge will further decrease in the near future because of construction of new dams and delta recession will continue to occur.

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