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Estimation of sediment compaction and its relationship with river channel distributions in the Yellow River delta, China

Liu, Yanxia, Du, Tingqin, Huang, Haijun, Liu, Yilin, Zhang, Yi
Catena 2019 v.182 pp. 104113
clay, clay soils, coastal plains, data collection, interferometry, models, pollution load, remote sensing, river deltas, rivers, sediment yield, sediments, subsidence, surveys, synthetic aperture radar, topography, China, Yellow River
The geomechanical properties of the stratigraphic sequences strongly influence the land surface subsidence, as the latter can be caused by the sediment compaction. Depositional units of transitional environments such as coastal plain and deltas are characterized by a high lithological variability due to the history and complexity of the sedimentary processes. Therefore, detailed modeling of the stratigraphic architecture is necessary to better understand the land surface subsidence process and accurately estimate its rates. The frequent avulsion and rearrangement of the channel network in the modern Yellow River delta since 1855 has led to the rapid accumulation and deposition of large amounts of sediment in the delta plain. The compaction of the substratum sediment due to the new sediment load and the consolidation of younger deposits caused land surface subsidence. We used 108 sediment core data covering the delta and obtained detailed stratigraphic structural information. A detailed distribution of clay and soft clayey soils, which are the primary contributors to land subsidence, was identified. Furthermore, the compaction rates and the consolidation at time of the subaerial area and neritic area for the entire modern Yellow River delta were estimated. We also analyzed the characteristics of present land subsidence by combining a ground movement dataset obtained by high-resolution topographic surveys with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Interferometry (InSAR) of satellite images. The results show that during the early stages of the development of the active deltaic lobe, the compaction of neritic sediments was the primary contributor to initial subsidence. Furthermore, combined with the relevant sedimentary age and environment determined by previous studies, we found that the spatial variation in compaction-induced subsidence in the subaerial deltaic area over time is closely related to the historical distributions of the river channels in the modern Yellow River delta. Our findings, providing a better characterization of the spatial and time heterogeneity of the land surface subsidence of both subaerial and submarine areas, significantly improved the previous knowledge on land subsidence of the Yellow River delta. Our results also demonstrate that the subaerial delta becomes increasingly stable over time with the gradual decrease in the average subsidence rate of each deltaic lobe.