Large-scale suspended sediment transport and sediment deposition in the Mekong Delta
- 1GFZ – German Research Center for Geoscience, Section 5.4 Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany
- 2Southern Institute of Water Resources Research, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Abstract. Sediment dynamics play a major role in the agricultural and fishery productivity of the Mekong Delta. However, the understanding of sediment dynamics in the delta, one of the most complex river deltas in the world, is very limited. This is a consequence of its large extent, the intricate system of rivers, channels and floodplains, and the scarcity of observations. This study quantifies, for the first time, the suspended sediment transport and sediment deposition in the whole Mekong Delta. To this end, a quasi-2D hydrodynamic model is combined with a cohesive sediment transport model. The combined model is calibrated using six objective functions to represent the different aspects of the hydraulic and sediment transport components. The model is calibrated for the extreme flood season in 2011 and shows good performance for 2 validation years with very different flood characteristics. It is shown how sediment transport and sediment deposition is differentiated from Kratie at the entrance of the delta on its way to the coast. The main factors influencing the spatial sediment dynamics are the river and channel system, dike rings, sluice gate operations, the magnitude of the floods, and tidal influences. The superposition of these factors leads to high spatial variability of sediment transport, in particular in the Vietnamese floodplains. Depending on the flood magnitude, annual sediment loads reaching the coast vary from 48 to 60% of the sediment load at Kratie. Deposited sediment varies from 19 to 23% of the annual load at Kratie in Cambodian floodplains, and from 1 to 6% in the compartmented and diked floodplains in Vietnam. Annual deposited nutrients (N, P, K), which are associated with the sediment deposition, provide on average more than 50% of mineral fertilizers typically applied for rice crops in non-flooded ring dike floodplains in Vietnam. Through the quantification of sediment and related nutrient input, the presented study provides a quantitative basis for estimating the benefits of annual Mekong floods for agriculture and fishery, and is an important piece of information with regard to the assessment of the impacts of deltaic subsidence and climate-change-related sea level rise on delta morphology.