River delta eco-morphodynamics under changing scenarios: The case of Lake Turkana, Kenya

Simone Zen, Paolo Perona, Encarni Medina-Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this work we explore the impact that changes in local climate and river hydrology have on the morphodynamics of a river delta, particularly focusing on the evolution of the delta generating at the lake inlet. We investigated the case of the delta in the lower reach of the Omo River in Ethiopia, which flows into lake Turkana, Kenya. The lake is the fourth largest lake and the largest desert lake in the world. This case study is of particular interest because within the last decades three dams have been built within the Omo basin. Among these, the Gibe III dam had a huge impact on the river hydrology and the sediment supply. To quantify changes in land use and river morphology and relate these to climate change and river hydrology we collated a historical dataset by combining information from different satellite sources. We observed that the amount of bare sediments progressively diminished and the biomass became denser compared to the existence of sparse biomass in the past. We argue that this is due to the changes in river hydrology and sediment load imposed by the dam, which increased sediment erosion by deepening the channel. The presence of the dam also increased the low flow level and reduced the peak flow during flood season, reducing the natural oscillations of the water table. In consequence, the possibility to plant for the local population was removed during floods. Our findings also indicate that the hydrology and reduced sediment discharge have changed the downstream (e.g. lake level), and upstream (e.g. mouth bar deposition) boundary conditions controlling the evolution of the delta structure, respectively. As a result, the delta morphology became less dynamic and less complex.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108640
Early online date7 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


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