Dr. Yi Jun Xu - Can We Train the Lower Mississippi River? Lessons Learned and Future Challenges

Stephen K. Boss, professor of environmental dynamics and sustainability in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, launched the Coastlines & People (CoPe) Virtual Symposium Project on September 14, 2022. Boss presented “Far-Field Effects of Sea-Level Rise and Ocean-Climate Processes on the Heartland: An Overview.” This project was cosponsored by the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in Fulbright College.

The eighth presentation entitled " Can We Train the Lower Mississippi River? Lessons Learned and Future Challenges " was delivered on January 25, 2023, by Yi-Jun Xu, hydrology/water resources professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources at Louisiana State University.

Alluvial rivers are shaped by interactions of flow, sediment transport, and bed deformation. In the past century, these natural processes have been altered in many alluvial rivers by human interventions, such as the construction of dams, levees and dikes, channel dragging and cutoffs, and water diversions. This has been especially true in the lower reach of large alluvial rivers where navigation and flood control play ultimate roles for regional and national industrial and economic development. The Lower Mississippi River is a prime example for that.

This presentation analyzes the long-term sediment transport and channel dynamics of the last 500-km reach of the Mississippi River and its 220-km distributary, the Atchafalaya River. It will demonstrate the consequences of river engineering and practices on inland waterway and coastal development of the nation’s largest river delta. The presentation aims to discuss emerging challenges in the coastline and heartland as sea level continues to rise and the intensity and frequency of storms and precipitation persist. Since the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River system is one of the largest and most engineered river systems in the world, lessons learned from the past engineering and management have relevant implications for the world’s other river deltas.

Xu received his bachelor’s degree from the Beijing Forestry University in China, with an area of concentration in forest soils. He obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Göttingen University in Germany, with an area of concentration in soil science and hydrology.

Over the past 30 years, Xu participated in 60+ research projects conducted in North America, West Europe, and East Asia across a wide range of geomorphological features from rugged terrains to fluvial floodplains, backwater swamps, and coastal estuaries and wetlands. His research has covered a wide range of topics including surface hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport, water quality, and aquatic biogeochemistry.

Xu is an author/co-author of approximately 180 peer-reviewed journal publications and a guest editor of 5 special journal issues. He has authored one book and has edited/co-edited four books. Xu is currently the hydrology section Editor-in-Chief for Water and is an Associate Editor for Journal of Soils and Sediments. In addition to research, Xu has contributed to teaching and course development at Louisiana State University, Göttingen University, and Sichuan Agricultural University in China, and has served as a chair and a member of approximately 60 graduate committees at LSU, including 32 Ph.D. committees.

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