• river delta;
  • bifurcation;
  • stability

[1] Using numerical experiments, we investigate how river-dominated delta channel networks are likely to respond to changes in river discharge predicted to occur over the next century as a result of environmental change. Our results show for a change in discharge up to 60% of the initial value, a decrease results in distributary abandonment in the delta, whereas an increase does not significantly affect the network. However, an increase in discharge beyond a threshold of 60% results in channel creation and an increase in the density of the distributary network. This behavior is predicted by an analysis of an individual bifurcation subject to asymmetric water surface slopes in the bifurcate arms. Given that discharge in most river basins will change by less than 50% in the next century, our results suggest that deltas in areas of increased drought will be more likely to experience significant rearrangement of the delta channel network.