Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 717–726 | Cite as

A methodological framework for reconstructing historical delta front morphology: case study at Macquarie rivulet delta within Lake Illawarra, Australia

  • Junjie DengEmail author
  • Qiangsheng Yao
  • Brian G. Jones
  • Kerrylee Rogers
  • Colin D. Woodroffe
  • Jan Harff


Reconstructing past delta front morphology is a challenging task, due to complex morphological formation processes. We have developed a methodological framework to reconstruct the delta front morphology by integrating the information from historical shorelines, spatial distribution of depositional environments, relative sea-level changes and a modern Digital Elevation Model (DEM). The delta front morphology was reconstructed based on spatial connections between mud basin morphology, subaerial DEM and the historical shoreline. In addition, available sedimentation data at the delta front was utilized to aid in reflecting complex morphological formation processes. Taking Macquarie Rivulet delta within Lake IlIawarra, Australia, as an example, we generated the historical delta morphology for 1892. The modelled sedimentation rate appears to be consistent with the measured ones. We have also applied this method to reconstruct the historical morphology in 1938 and 1981. The model results indicate a progressive infilling influenced by switching river mouth locations. The cautions and implications of this method are also discussed. An increased resolution of sedimentation data should be able to improve the accuracy of the model. The reconstructed morphologies, elucidating fundamental information about delta evolution and sediment mass volumes in the past, can be employed in management activities.


Morphological reconstruction Sediment mass volume Delta front Historical shoreline 



This study was supported by ARC Linkage project LP130101025 “Responses of estuaries to climate change: investigating their role as sediment sinks”, in collaboration with the Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW), the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Shoalhaven City and Bega Valley Shire Councils. The research project funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, Grant No. 41806100) is also acknowledged. We also thank the comments by the anonymous reviewers and the editors.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Marine SciencesSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai)ZhuhaiChina
  3. 3.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  4. 4.Institute of Coastal and Marine SciencesUniversity of SzczecinSzczecinPoland

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