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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications / The role of human interference on the channel shifting of the Karkheh River in the Lower Khuzestan plain (Mesopotamia, SW Iran)

Vanessa MA Heyvaert, Jan Walstra, Peter Verkinderen, and Henk Weerts (2012)

The role of human interference on the channel shifting of the Karkheh River in the Lower Khuzestan plain (Mesopotamia, SW Iran)

Quaternary International, 251:52–63.

This study is concerned with the Late Holocene floodplain history of the Karkheh River in Lower Khuzestan, and in particular with the role of human action upon its channel shifts. The research was conducted in a multidisciplinary way, in which resources and approaches from different research fields were combined: (1) geomorphological mapping based on the interpretation of Landsat and CORONA satellite imagery, (2) analyses of geological sequences, including the identification of sedimentary facies and radiocarbon dating of organic material, (3) an archaeological field survey of ancient settlements, and (4) consultation of historical documents, mainly Arabic texts from the 9th–14th century and European travel literature from the 16th-early 20th century. Three main channel belts of the Karkheh were identified (labelled Kh1, Kh2 and Kh3), corresponding to successive stages in the evolution of the floodplain. Two river shifts are documented in the datasets, both taking place within the last 2000 years. The first avulsion regards a shift from channel belt Kh1, once a tributary of the Karun, to the straight river bed of Kh2, taking place at least after 1240–1310 cal BP/710–640 AD. The second avulsion, from Kh2 to Kh3, is clearly documented in historical sources and happened in a single night event in the year 1837/113 cal BP. Reactivation of the Kh2 river bed and its irrigation canals can be attributed to the recent construction of an artificial canal bypassing the second avulsion point. Both river shifts were strongly influenced by human interference, whereby an artificial irrigation canal took over the entire river flow from the main channel belt. Most likely, a combination of human-induced factors, such as weakening of the river levees, high sedimentation rates and disadvantageous channel gradients, led to a situation prone to avulsion.
Peer Review, International Redaction Board, Impact Factor
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2011.07.018
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