Hydrological statistical data, remote sensing images, and bathymetric charts were used to study the recent evolution of the Huanghe (Yellow) River delta under human-induced interventions. It was clear that water and sediment discharge from the Huanghe River had dropped rapidly since 1970, particularly after 1986. The water and sediment discharges for the period of 1986–2000 were found to have been reduced to only 29.2% and 31.2% of those in the period of 1950–69. This was caused by human factors in the upper and middle reaches of the Huanghe River, including water diversion, damming and reservoir construction, and water and soil conservation. Based on the results from visual interpretation of processed Landsat (MSS or TM/ETM ) images dated from 1976 to 2001 and two digital elevation models generated from bathymetric charts surveyed in 1976 and 1992, we found that human-induced reduction of water and sediment discharge led to coastline retrogradation, with the maximum mean recession rate of −0.51 km yr−1 over the period of 1976–98, and seabed erosion beyond the −20 m isobath between 1976 and 1992. Other impacts of human activities on the recent evolution of the Huanghe River delta, including tidal flats shrinking, artificial coastline increasing, land surface sinking and so on, were also analyzed. We found that: (i) the whole delta, including subaerial and subaqueous, has turned from a highly constructive period to a destructive phase; (ii) channelization and dredging were two of the main causes of delta destruction; (iii) land loss in the Huanghe River delta caused by submersion will be increased in the near future; (iv) the Huanghe River delta was becoming more fragile and susceptible to natural hazards.
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Vol. 2006 • No. 224