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In the Ganges-Brahmaputra (G-B) delta, periodic flooding of the land surface during the tidal cycle coupled with enormous sediment delivery during the monsoon promotes sediment accretion and surface elevation gain through time. However, over the past several decades, widespread embankment (“polder”) construction in the G-B tidal delta plain has led to numerous environmental disturbances, including channel siltation and tide range amplification. While previous research indicates that rates of sediment accretion are relatively high in the G-B tidal delta plain, it remains unclear if and how surface elevation is maintaining pace with relative sea-level rise (RSLR) in this region. In this study, we utilize an array of surface elevation tables, sediment traps, and groundwater piezometers to provide longitudinal trends of sedimentation and elevation dynamics with respect to local platform elevation and associated hydroperiod. Two hydro-geomorphic settings of the Sundarbans mangrove forest are compared: higher elevation stream-bank and lower elevation interior. Seasonal measurements over a time span of 5 years reveal that elevation gain is occurring in all settings, with the highest rates observed at elevated stream-bank zones. Elevation gain occurs primarily in response to sediment accretion, with possible minor contributions from pore-water storage and swelling of clay minerals during the monsoon season (i.e., belowground biomass and organic contribution is minimal). As a result, elevation loss and shallow subsidence in the G-B delta is unlikely to be caused by compaction of organic-rich soils, but rather appears to be controlled by seasonal lowering of the groundwater table and compaction of clay minerals. Rates of surface elevation gain in the Sundarbans greatly exceed rates of RSLR and more closely follow rates of RSLR augmented from tide range amplification, indicating that this landscape is adapting to human-induced environmental change. The proceedings of this study underscore the adaptability of the natural G-B tidal delta plain to local environmental disturbances, with the caveat that these defenses may be lost to future upstream reductions in sediment supply.

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