The Mekong Delta, early in the twenty-first century, is at a tipping point for sustainability. The delta is threatened by the implications of (1) damming and land-use changes in the drainage basin, (2) a burgeoning delta population in a nation (Vietnam) undergoing rapid development, (3) accelerating rates of rising sea level, and (4) an uncertain future climate that may impact tropical cyclone frequency and monsoonal precipitation patterns in the basin. These threats are present in other great rivers that emerge from the Himalayas. Two primary threats are examined in light of recent joint Vietnam-US studies in the largest distributary (Song Hau) of the Mekong River, in the shore-fringing mangroves, and on the adjacent subaqueous delta. We consider the implications of declining sediment loads from the catchment (as well as modification of the annual hydrograph) and flooding and salinity intrusion associated with relative sea level rise (eustatic + subsidence). This 2014–2015 study shows the interconnectivity in fluvial sediment supply to these parts of the delta: declining sediment loads and rising sea levels will likely impact distributary channel morphology and will alter estuarine circulation and sediment-trapping efficiency, all of which have feedbacks on sediment provision to the mangrove forests and the shelf.
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