, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 3367-3378
Date: 30 May 2012

Impacts and Implications of Major Changes Caused by the Three Gorges Dam in the Middle Reaches of the Yangtze River, China

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The impoundment of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) has disturbed the hydrological regime downstream and has directly affected the relationship between the Yangtze River and Dongting Lake. To trace the realistic and potential impacts, this paper examined the changes of the channel morphology and sedimentology caused by the TGD through a field survey on the channel cross-sections and then analyzed the impact on lake water level through BP neural networks. The possible impacts on inundation patterns in lake wetlands were studied based on the lake basin DEM. The results indicate that drastic sediment decline and severe channel erosion are putting considerable pressure on the river and lake. Changing river channels are evident in some monitoring cross-sections. Dongting Lake, for the first time, changed from trapping to supplying net sediment to the Yangtze River. During the water storage periods of the TGD, the water level decreased 2.03 m in 2006 and 2.11 m in 2009 at the outlet of the lake, with extreme decreases up to 3.30 m and 3.02 m, respectively. These changes have inevitably induced alterations in the inundation patterns of the lake wetlands, which in turn have disturbed the ecological function of lake wetlands as habitats for both migratory birds and aquatic fish. The serious droughts in Dongting Lake recent years were largely connected with the above changes. Therefore, proper attention should be paid to this occurrence.