River deltas and estuaries belong to the most significant coastal landforms on our planet and are usually very densely populated. Nearly 600 million people live in river deltas, benefiting from the large variety of locational advantages and rich resources. Deltas are highly dynamic and vulnerable environments that are exposed to a wide range of natural and man-made threats. Sustainable management of river deltas therefore requires a holistic assessment of historic and recent ongoing changes and the dynamics in settlement sprawl, land cover and land use change, ecosystem development, as well as river and coastline geomorphology, all of which is difficult to achieve solely with traditional land-based surveying techniques. This review paper presents the potential of Earth Observation for analyses and quantification of land surface dynamics in the large river deltas globally, emphasizing the different geo-information products that can be derived from medium resolution, high resolution and highest resolution optical, multispectral, thermal and SAR data. Over 200 journal papers on remote sensing related studies for large river deltas and estuaries have been analyzed and categorized into thematic fields such as river course morphology, coastline changes, erosion and accretion processes, flood and inundation dynamics, regional land cover and land use dynamics, as well as the monitoring of compliance with respect to anthropogenic activity such as industry expansion-related habitat destruction. Additionally, our own exemplary analyses are interwoven into the review to visualize related delta work.
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