Efficient retention of mud drives land building on the Mississippi
Christopher R. Esposito1,*, Zhixiong Shen2,*, Torbjörn E. Törnqvist1, Jonathan Marshak1,a, and Christopher White11Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118-5698, USA 2Department of Marine Science, Coastal Carolina University, PO Box 261954, Conway, South Carolina 29528, USA *Christopher R . Esposito and Zhixiong Shen contributed equally to this work, and should be considered co-first authors acurrent address: Department of Geological Sciences, Cal ifornia State Poly technic University, 3801 West Temple Avenue, Pomona, California 91768, USA
Received: 22 Jan 2017 – Accepted for review: 30 Jan 2017 – Discussion started: 09 Feb 2017
Abstract. Many of the world's deltas – home to major population centers – are rapidly degrading due to reduced sediment supply, making these systems less resilient to increasing rates of relative sea-level rise. The Mississippi Delta faces some of the highest rates of wetland loss in the world. As a result, multi-billion dollar plans for coastal restoration by means of river diversions are currently nearing implementation. River diversions aim to bring sediment back to the presently sediment-starved delta plain. Within this context, sediment retention efficiency (SRE) is a critical parameter because it dictates the effectiveness of river diversions. Several recent studies have focused on land building along the open coast, showing SREs as low as 5 %. Here we measure the SRE of a large relict crevasse splay in an inland, vegetated setting that serves as an appropriate model for river diversions. By comparing the mass fraction of sand in the splay deposit to the estimated sand fraction that entered it during its life cycle we find that this mud-dominated sediment body has an SRE of ≥ 75 %, i.e., dramatically higher than its counterparts on the open coast. Our results show that transport pathways for mud are critical for delta evolution and that SRE is highly variable across a delta. We conclude that sediment diversions located in settings that are currently still vegetated are likely to be the most effective in reversing land loss and providing long-term sustainability.
Esposito, C. R., Shen, Z., Törnqvist, T. E., Marshak, J., and White, C.: Efficient retention of mud drives land building on the Mississippi
Delta plain, Earth Surf. Dynam. Discuss., doi:10.5194/esurf-2017-5, in review, 2017.