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Anthropogenic Reservoirs of Various Sizes Trap Most of the Sediment in the Mediterranean Maghreb Basin

Abstract : The purpose of this study is to obtain a spatially explicit assessment of the impact of reservoirs on natural river sediment fluxes to the sea in the Mediterranean Maghreb Basin (MMB), a region where both mechanical erosion rates and the anthropogenic pressure on surface water resources are high. We combined modeling of riverine sediment yields (sediment fluxes divided by the drainage basin area) and water drainage intensities in a 5' × 5' grid point resolution (~10 km × 10 km) with a compilation of existing reservoirs in the area, and calculated sediment trapping based on average water residence time in these reservoirs. A total number of 670 reservoirs could be assembled from various sources (including digitization from Google maps), comprising large-scale, small-scale and hillside reservoirs. 450 of them could be implemented in our modeling approach. Our results confirm that natural sediment yields are clearly above the world average, with the greatest values for Morocco (506 t km −2 year −1), followed by Algeria (328 t km −2 year −1) and by Tunisia (250 t km −2 year −1). Including dams in the downstream routing of suspended sediments to the sea reduces the natural sediment flux in the entire MMB to the sea from 96 to 36 Mt km −1 year −1 , which corresponds to an average sediment retention of 62%. Trapping rates are highest in the Tunisian basin part, with about 72%, followed by the Algerian (63%) and the Moroccan basin parts (55%). Small reservoirs and hillside reservoirs are quantitatively important in the interception of these sediments compared to large reservoirs. If we only considered the dams included in the widely used Global Reservoir and Dam (GRanD) database which comprises mainly large reservoirs sediment retention behind dams would account for 36% of the natural suspended particulate matter (SPM) flux to the Mediterranean Sea. Our data reveal negative correlation between sediment retention and natural erosion rates among the three Maghreb countries, which can be explained by the greater difficulties to build dams in steep terrains where natural sediment yields are high. Although the lowest sediment retention rates are found in the Moroccan part of the MMB, it is probably here where riverine sediment starvation has the greatest impacts on coastline dynamics. Understanding the impact of dams and related water infrastructures on riverine sediment dynamics is key in arid zones such as the MMB, where global warming is predicted to cause important changes in the climatic conditions and the water availability.
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Mahrez Sadaoui, Wolfgang Ludwig, François Bourrin, Yves Le Bissonnais, Estela Romero. Anthropogenic Reservoirs of Various Sizes Trap Most of the Sediment in the Mediterranean Maghreb Basin. Water, MDPI, 2018, 10 (7), ⟨10.3390/w10070927⟩. ⟨hal-02328672⟩



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