The world’s rivers deliver 19 billion tonnes of sediment to the coastal zone annually1, with a considerable fraction being sequestered in large deltas, home to over 500 million people. Most (more than 70 per cent) large deltas are under threat from a combination of rising sea levels, ground surface subsidence and anthropogenic sediment trapping2, 3, and a sustainable supply of fluvial sediment is therefore critical to prevent deltas being ‘drowned’ by rising relative sea levels2, 3, 4.

Deltas around the globe are facing a multitude of intensifying environmental change and development-linked pressures. One key concern is the reduction in the quantity of suspended sediment reaching and building floodplains. Sediment deposition provides multiple services to deltaic social-ecological systems, in particular, countering the subsidence of the delta-body, and providing plentiful nutrients. Experiencing particularly rapid change is the Vietnamese Mekong Delta (VMD).