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INSTAAR seminar: Sediment dynamics and coupled human-natural systems in the Bengal delta

Monday, January 22, 2018, 12:15PM - 1:15PM


Kimberly G. Rogers



SEEC room S228 (Sievers Room)

River deltas are dynamic landforms whose natural shapes reflect a balance of wave, tidal and river processes. These processes have made deltas the most fertile places on Earth, and have supported societal development for millennia. As populations in river basins increase, the race to secure livelihoods accelerates the building of flood-control infrastructure, thus altering the downstream delivery of sediment. Social response to landscape change can further generate feedbacks in physical delta dynamics, including intensification of riverbank erosion, sediment starvation, and tidal amplification. 

In this talk, I present results from what has been called a “delta in peril” of catastrophic flooding as a result of reduced river sediment loads: the Bengal Delta, Bangladesh. Field measurements, computer modeling, and geochemical fingerprinting of sediments from three different anthropogenic and natural settings within the Bengal Delta reveal that sediment dispersal—and the influence of infrastructure—is highly variable. I put these results in the context of contemporary climate change and discuss the implications for policy, infrastructure governance, and adaptation. My results challenge the assumption that the Bengal Delta is doomed to drown; rather, it signifies effective preparation for 21st century climate change requires consideration of local variations in coupled human-natural system dynamics.


Free and open to the public.