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The Physical Geography of Southeast Asia$
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Avijit Gupta

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199248025

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199248025.001.0001

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Accelerated Erosion and Sedimentation in Southeast Asia

Accelerated Erosion and Sedimentation in Southeast Asia

Chapter:
(p.239) 14 Accelerated Erosion and Sedimentation in Southeast Asia
Source:
The Physical Geography of Southeast Asia
Author(s):

Avijit Gupta

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199248025.003.0026

Periodic attempts to plot global distribution of erosion and sedimentation usually attribute most of Southeast Asia with a very high sediment yield (Milliman and Meade 1983). The erosion rates and sediment yield figures are especially high for maritime Southeast Asia. Milliman and Syvitski (1992), for example, listed 3000 t km−2 yr−1 for the archipelagos and peninsulas of Southeast Asia. They provided a number of natural explanations for the high erosion rate: location near active plate margins, pyroclastic eruptions, steep slopes, and mass movements. This is also a region with considerable annual rainfall, a very substantial percentage of which tends to be concentrated in a few months and falls with high intensity. Part of Southeast Asia (the Philippines, Viet Nam, Timor) is visited by tropical cyclones with heavy, intense rainfall and possible associated wind damage to existing vegetation. The fans at the foot of slopes, the large volume of sediment stored in the channel and floodplain of the rivers, and the size of deltas all indicate a high rate of erosion and episodic sediment transfer. This episodic erosion and sediment transfer used to be controlled for most of the region by the thick cover of vegetation that once masked the slopes. When vegetation is removed soil and regolith de-structured, and natural slopes altered, the erosion rates and sediment yield reach high figures. Parts of Southeast Asia display striking anthropogenic alteration of the landscape, although the resulting accelerated erosion may be only temporary, operating on a scale of several years. Over time the affected zones shift, and slugs of sediment continue to arrive in a river but from different parts of its drainage basin. The combination of anthropogenic alteration and fragile landforms may give rise to very high local yields. Sediment yields of more than 15 000 t km−2 yr−1 have been estimated from such areas (Ruslan and Menam, cited in Lal 1987). This is undoubtedly towards the upper extreme, but current destruction of the vegetation cover due to deforestation, expansion of agriculture, mining, urbanization, and implementation of large-scale resettlement schemes has increased the sediment yield from < 102 to > 103 t km−2 yr−1.

Keywords:   agriculture, beach, coral, delta, erosion plot, flood, logging, mangrove, oil palm, peat

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