Deltas host a variety of unique ecosystems at the land-sea interface. They are also among the most densely populated areas in the world and already affected by climate change. In an interdisciplinary approach and together with societal partners, we explore pathways to sustainable deltas in the future.
Water, Climate & Future Deltas
Delta areas, as unique ecosystems, are among the most densely populated areas in the world. Deltas are under increasing human and natural pressure. Future global change, with intensifying human activity, increasing weather extremes, changing river flow regimes and accelerated sea-level rise, will put deltas and their societies at increasing risk.
We therefore need deltas that are resilient to natural hazards, make sustainable use of natural resources, have healthy environmental conditions, and are able to cope with future climate change and sea-level rise. It is now the moment for science and society to find sustainable pathways into such future. This requires addressing the wide variety of processes - physical, chemical, biological, institutional and socio-economic – that interact in deltas in an integrated approach.
In the hub Water, Climate and Future Deltas researchers from varying disciplines at Utrecht University cooperate with external partners to design and evaluate pathways to sustainable delta development. The hub will provide policy makers and delta managers with the essential scientific basis for informed decision-making on pathways towards sustainable deltas.
Finding pathways to sustainable delta development requires understanding both the external drivers of change and the functioning and interaction of natural and social systems that can be managed in a delta. Therefore, the hub comprises three research lines that together are required for sustainable development:
- Understanding the global external drivers of change that deltas will be facing in the future, such as climate and sea-level change, socio-economic and technological change, and how these translate to delta-scale scenarios. The result will be integrated scenarios of changes that determine the boundary conditions for delta pathways in the future.
- Understanding the functioning and interaction of natural and social systems that can be managed in a delta. Using this system understanding we develop models to predict the impacts of the external drivers or management measures on a delta. Examples are the effects of sea level rise on groundwater salinity, or the governance requirements for new flood protection measures.
- Designing and evaluating the actions, knowledge and instruments to develop pathways for long-term development leading to resilient deltas, using the scenarios, knowledge and models from the first two research lines.
The hub will work together closely with stakeholders in a co-creative process across a range of delta environments with long-term challenges, starting with the Rhine-Meuse delta in the Netherlands, the Mekong delta in Vietnam, and the Mississippi delta in the United States.
Activities and deliverables
- Research activities and output
- Set-up of collaborative living labs
- Knowledge sharing and dissemination
- Policy briefs
- Educational activities
We invite partners from all disciplines working on sustainable delta development to join the hub and collaborate with us to find pathways to sustainable deltas.
Current partners of the hub are: