Fate of Ayeyarwady and Thanlwin Rivers Sediments in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal

J. Paul Liu*, Steven A. Kuehl, Austin C. Pierce, Joshua Williams, Neal E. Blair, Courtney Harris, Day Wa Aung, Yin Yin Aye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Collectively, the modern Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) and Thanlwin (Salween) rivers deliver >600 Mt/yr of sediment to the sea. To understand the fate of Ayeyarwady and Thanlwin river-derived sediments to the sea, we conducted a 14-day geophysical and geological survey in the northern Andaman Sea and eastern Bay of Bengal in December 2017. Overall, ~1500-km of high-resolution Chirp-sonar profiles and 30 sediment cores from the shelf were acquired. This paper presents the results of the processed high-resolution profiles together with sediment analyses. Our findings indicate: 1) There is little modern sediment accumulating on the shelf immediately off the Ayeyarwady River mouths. In contrast, a major mud wedge with a distal depocenter, up to 60 m in thickness, has been deposited seaward in the Gulf of Martaban, extending to ~130 m water depth into the Martaban Depression. Further, 2) There is no evidence showing that modern sediment has accumulated or is transported into the Martaban Canyon; 3) There is a mud drape/blanket wrapping around the narrow western Myanmar Shelf in the eastern Bay of Bengal. The thickness of the mud deposit is up to 20 m nearshore and gradually thins to the slope at −300 m water depth, and likely escapes into the deep Andaman Trench; 4) The estimated total amount of Holocene sediments deposited offshore is ~1290 × 109 tons. If we assume this has mainly accumulated since the middle Holocene highstand (~6000 yr BP) like other major deltas, the historical annual mean depositional flux on the shelf would be 215 Mt/yr, which is equivalent to ~35% of the modern Ayeyarwady-Thanlwin rivers derived sediments; 5) Unlike other large river systems in Asia, such as the Yangtze and Mekong, this study indicates a bi-directional transport and depositional pattern controlled by the local currents that are influenced by tides, and seasonally varying monsoons winds and waves. Organic carbon biomarkers and isotope compositions show a gradual changing pattern with the along-shelf transport from the river to the Gulf of Martaban in the east and to the Bay of Bengal in the west.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106137
JournalMarine Geology
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Andaman Sea
  • Ayeyarwady
  • Bay of Bengal
  • Clinoform
  • Gulf of Martaban
  • Sediment transport
  • Subaqueous Delta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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