Millions of people around the world rely on river deltas for everyday life, from the Mississippi to the Amazon. Unfortunately, this could be changing the geological phenomena for good.
A new study from Science Magazine found that human interaction is putting river deltas at serious risk. The study analyzed 48 major river deltas and found that global sea-level rise, regional water management and human activity are among the factors changing the deltas forever. Highly populated deltas like India’s Ganges-Brahmaputra where the construction of dams and new channels have sunk the land even lower are now far more likely to take a hit from flooding and major natural disasters.
Louisiana has already felt that threat, losing an estimated 1,900 square-miles of coastal land to the ocean in the last 80-years. The threat of further loss still looms over a large population in the state’s southern fishing communities.
Meanwhile, The Mississippi Delta has also been largely altered by humans but features a vast flood prevention system that includes massive levees. The study found that regions such as this, with the economic means to install safety systems, were at a far lower risk despite how much humans had changed the surrounding deltas.
Still, The Washington Post points to the fact that rising costs of flood-defense systems over the next century could still cause future problems for Mississippi and other wealthy river delta regions.
The sweeping changes to these deltas don’t appear to be a problem everywhere. A large portion Alaska’s Yukon Dekta serves as a wildlife refuge. The remote area remains almost entirely untouched thanks to a small human population.
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