Belmont Forum Deltas

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Social Sciences


Deltas are economic and environmental hotspots, food baskets for many nations, and home to a large
portion of the world population. They sustain rich, biodiverse ecosystems and related services. Most
deltas are also international and regional transportation hubs that support intense economic activity. Yet,
deltas are deteriorating at an alarming rate due to climate impacts (e.g., sea level rise and flooding),
human-induced catchment changes (e.g., water and sediment flow reduction), and local exploitation
(e.g., sand, groundwater, and hydrocarbon extraction). The international science community recognizes
the need to develop a solid knowledge base for protecting these vulnerable coastal systems, and this BF
initiative leads the way by coordinating and enhancing innovative international work towards the
development of a science-based framework for delta sustainability.

The project will develop a versatile modeling framework that may be applied from local to national levels
to evaluate the unique functioning, critical stressors, and vulnerability of the world's deltas. The
framework will ingest social, economic, physical and ecosystem data into an open-access repository and
will allow planners to model and deliver optimized, viable solutions for their region. In areas for which
detailed data are sparse, an infrastructure for critical data gathering will be developed and modeling and
prediction tools will be customized. The framework will initially be applied to three case-studies for which
local and regional partnerships are already in place, including the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM),
Mekong, and Amazon deltas.

The team represents the BF-G8 countries: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Norway, India,
Japan, UK, and USA, and includes partners in the Netherlands, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. It is
composed of government and university researchers, and NGO's, working closely with policymakers.
The training of graduate students and post-docs able to work across disciplinary boundaries and
countries will also be a unique legacy of the project.

Planned Impact

The users of the BF-DELTAS products are intended to include a global
community of scientists, researchers, decision managers, and policy
makers engaged in the academic, private, government, and non-profit

Science Community: Our project will assemble comprehensive data on
deltas starting with the three case study sites (GBM, MRD, and ARD) and
expand to other deltas around the world. Such data are important for
research and for advancing further scientific understanding of deltas and
their sustainability. The means by which the BF outputs will be shared
with the scientific community include: publications, presentations at
meetings, a web site, summer institutes for graduate students and
post-doctoral associates. Also the data and models will be made open
access. Training workshops for users of the data and associated
modelling frameworks and decision support tools will be given, as those
provided annually from CSDMS.

Decision and policy makers: BF-DELTAS will assist the
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem
Services (IPBES)_in achieving its global mission of ensuring that policy
decisions are based on the best available scientific information on
conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The outputs of the project can be used to inform the Convention on
Biological Diversity on the effectiveness with which several of the Aichi
Targets, for sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits to people,
have been met.

General public: NCED via NSF funding has created a paradigm by which
science is broadly disseminated to the public via exhibits at the Science
Museum of Minnesota (SMM). We have discussed with the SMM and they
are interested to collaborate and create content for delta exhibits using the
model case studies of GBM, MRD, and ARD

Student and post-doc interdisciplinary training and mentoring:
focusing on collaborative research and training of graduate students and
post-docs. We propose a model of "synthesis post-docs" who will be
co-advised by at least two members of the team. These synthesis
post-docs will be required to spend time in at least two participating
institutions and will serve as the bridging mechanisms to accelerate
synthesis and synergy between groups

Institutions, Agencies, and Organizations:
The work will link with two important ESPA projects in the case study sites. In GBM an ESPA Deltas and
The outputs of the Delta-RADS
program will complement a project being proposed by Conservation
International's (CI) Greater Mekong Program to ESPA.

Broader collaboration will also be generated with NGOs, consortia, and
intergovernmental organisations. Links exist to the Group on Earth
Observations - Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) via co-PI
Harrison (co-lead of GEO BON's Freshwater Ecosystem Change Working
Group). Collaboration with other GEO BON working groups may include
those for Marine Ecosystem Change, Ecosystem Services,
In-situ/remote-sensing Integration, and Data Integration and
Inter-operability. Collaboration is also possible with the Asia-Pacific
Biodiversity Observation Network (for Mekong projects).

Training and Capacity Building: Open-access education, publications, and
research modules preservation and dissemination - We plan to share our
knowledge and modeling framework for all interested learners through the
CSDMS - Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System's educational
repository. (


10 25 50
Description This grant is about the links between climate change/ environmental factors and wellbeing/ health and the socioeconomic status of people living in 3 delta areas: the Brahmaputra (Bangladesh and India), the Mekong (mainly Vietnam) and the Amazon Delta (Brazil). The extensive collaborations facilitated by the Belmont project has resulted in a large number of peer-reviewed articles of the members of staff associated with this grant have been principle author or co-author of about twenty. In addition, a further three papers are either under review or are about to be submitted. Key outcomes of this research include a new framework for making the Sustainable Development goals work for climate change hotspots; an improved understanding of climate and environmental factors influence nutrition and food insecurity e.g. through combining multiple data sources such as remote sensing and; household surveys and policy recommendations on how to create sustainable deltas supporting livelihoods and ecosystem services.
Exploitation Route The findings of the research are relevant for planning of public services and poverty alleviation to stakeholders in Deltas areas. The potential avenues for impact are several particularly in regards to policy making at the international and national levels. For example, in the journal articles (Szabo et al 2016) on making the Sustainable development goals (SDG) work for climate change hotspots (including deltas) we propose climate change hotspot indicators that have a regional scope and complement sub-national and national indicators to capture the vulnerable and unique challenges associated with Deltas. In a number of other articles including De Araujo Barbosa et al (2016), Szabo et al (2016) and Renaud et al (2016) van Soesbergen (2018) we show how livelihoods in deltas are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes by combining information on demographic, socioeconomic climate and environment using multiple data sources. Key recommendations for national policy makers address population ageing, nutritional vulnerability due to changes in the local environment and impacts of climate and environmental changes on different types of ecosystem services.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

Description Policy solutions derived from the interim project findings were published in Women Deliver Solutions Panorama (Solutions that Deliver for Women) The Panorama Solutions document is widely used and disseminated across sectors and across UN agencies and member state governments. The material from the Belmont Forum's Deltas project (Social Science) is in relation to setting up cross-sectoral initiatives in climate-change-hotspot zones. There are three main types of climate-change hotspots: 1) river and deltas, 2) semi-arid regions, and 3) glaciers and river basins. These hotspots are areas that often cut across national boundaries and have limited political representation. As a result, they are not a focus of direct policy action, which has important implications for sustainable development, the well-being of local populations, and women's health, particularly their sexual and reproductive health. As part of the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescent's Health, a high level collaborative initiative on human health and wellbeing could be set up in each hotspot. The North East Health Sector Strategic response plan in Nigeria has done just that in a bid to coordinate and provide healthcare services to vulnerable and multi-dimensionally poor persons in the area. Continuing on the hotspots policy area, three more publications have come out in the final year of the grant and one more is under analysis. Two of these are published and on the theme of nutrition and remittances. One more - a commentary, brings together stakeholders from across the "Zero-Hunger" debate and will come out shortly: "Accelerating progress towards the Zero Hunger Goal in cross-boundary climate change hotspots" (Sylvia Szabo, Md. Sarwar Hossain, Fabrice Renaud, Djaffra Traore, Abid Hussain, Piotr Matczak, Sate Ahmad, Devendra Raj Singh, Barbara Neumann, Zoe Matthews. The collaborations built up in the process of creating these high quality outputs have now put us in position to apply for a GCRF hub on nutrition, poverty and trade across a number of Asian and African countries with Dr Sylvia Szabo, now at AIT Bangkok - we are through to the final round on this application. The findings and outcomes of the Belmont project highlighted the need for further research into how environmental impacts affect economic conditions and livelihoods of populations. To this end, a new project, UKRI GCRF Trade, Development and the Environment Hub was funded to further unpack these relationships and to investigate how other external factors, such as trade impacts biodiversity and socio-economic conditions. The project led by WCMC is a multi partner consortium bringing together more than 50 partners working in 15 countries ( Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description GCRF Trade Hub - Social impacts WP3
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 01/2024
Description Belmont Forum Deltas Group 
Organisation University of Minnesota
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Minnesota, USA University of Colorado-Boulder, USA Vanderbilt University, USA City College of New York, USA Indiana University, USA Geological Survey of Japan, Japan German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany University of Wurzberg, Germany United Nations University, Germany Aix-Marseille University, France University of Southampton, UK United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre Anna University, India Jadavpur University, India Deltares, Netherlands University of Dhaka, Bangladesh Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology World Wide Fund for Nature, Vietnam Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Norway University of Vale do Paraiba, Brazil Natural Resources Canada University of Waterloo, Canada Nanjing University, China
Collaborator Contribution The DELTAS project brings together world experts from the physical and social sciences with local stakeholders from government and non-profit organizations to enhance our scientific understanding of deltas as coupled socio-ecological systems.
Impact Please see publications section
Start Year 2014
Description American Geophysical Union Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The American Geophysical Union Fall meeting is one of the largest conferences in the area of environment and climate change. We had one oral presentation Title: 'Where You Live Matters: Localising Environmental Impacts on Health, Nutrition and Poverty in Cambodia Using SAE Techniques'. and one poster presentation: Food and nutrition security: trends, determinants and Challenges in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Blog hosted by The World Bank 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The blog is hosted by the World Bank and included 5 posts (1 available in both English and French). Exact numbers of readers are unknown but comments left by the audience suggest that they were timely and of good quality.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
Description Blog hosted by the World Economic Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blogs have been placed on a platform hosted by the The World Economic Forum. Exact estimation of readership is not available.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
Description Japan Geo Science Union Conference in Japan May 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We presented preliminary findings on the below paper was presented in a special session on deltas at the Japan GeoScience Union Conference:
Van Soesbergen, A., Nilsen, K., Matthews, Z., Burgess, N., Food and nutrition security, trends and determinants and challenges in tropical mega deltas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration and the Environment, 21 March 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The following paper was presented at the symposium: Szabo S., et al: Home is where the money goes: determinants and impacts of remittance flows in the Ganges Brahmaputra and Mekong delta regions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Women Deliver 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In May 2016, we organised a special session at the 4th Global Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, 16-19 May 2016. Women deliver forum gathers academics, activists and high-level policy makers covering all aspects affecting the rights and health of women and girls. The University of Southampton organised a concurrent session on reproductive health and climate change focusing on global and local impacts of environmental degradation and climate change on women's health outcomes in hotspot areas including deltas. The session consisted of presentations from especially invited speakers including Dr Anthony Costello Assistant Director General at the World Health Organisation and member of the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, Dr Ima Kashim, Executive Director of Public Health and Community Development Center, Nigeria and Evelyn Anyiko young activist (Center for Alterative Development, Uganda). A report on how to mitigate the impacts of climate change in environmental hotspots on women health outcomes and access to health services was submitted to the Women Deliver Secretariat, which will be published later this year through conference proceedings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016