Lead Researchers: Efi Foufoula-Georgiou (University of Minnesota) and John Dearing (University of Southampton)

Delta environments are complex systems integrating multiple nested spatial and temporal scales, and are subject to multiple drivers of change. The basis for any sustainability initiative for these systems would include understanding links between environment, ecosystem services, and human well-being. To address this, the DELTAS project will adopt an approach with two major stages:

  • Refine our understanding of the roles that environmental change, governance, and anthropogenic activities have on the economy, environment, and human wellbeing in delta systems through an integrated analysis of current and historical trend data; and 
  • Combine this dynamical baseline understanding with current and projected scenarios for change utilizing an integrative modeling approach that considers complex interrelationships among drivers, pressures, governance, and responses, including feedbacks, thresholds and critical transitions.

Specific research questions the team will pursue include:

  • How do the dynamics of a delta, including its main processes, reservoirs, and feedback loops, steer the system toward a particular equilibrium state? 
  • How are these dynamics affected by human intervention and ongoing environmental change, especially with regard to maintaining a sustainable subaerial delta plain for human occupation?
  • What are the demographic and urban trajectories in delta regions with respect to population change, rates of poverty, and indicators of human well-being?; and 
  • What types of governance arrangements may help to facilitate and/or limit solutions to intricate multi-scalar problems of management, protection, and mitigation in delta regions?


These research questions highlight a need for the scientific community to synthesize and integrate our current knowledge base into a more broadly applicable and accessible framework.  This is the principal goal of the DELTAS project.