Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 10, pp 7009–7026 | Cite as

An integrated approach to model the biomagnification of organic pollutants in aquatic food webs of the Yangtze Three Gorges Reservoir ecosystem using adapted pollution scenarios

  • Björn Scholz-Starke
  • Richard Ottermanns
  • Ursula Rings
  • Tilman Floehr
  • Henner Hollert
  • Junli Hou
  • Bo Li
  • Ling Ling Wu
  • Xingzhong Yuan
  • Katrin Strauch
  • Hu Wei
  • Stefan Norra
  • Andreas Holbach
  • Bernhard Westrich
  • Andreas Schäffer
  • Martina Roß-Nickoll
Processes and Environmental Quality in the Yangtze River System


The impounding of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) at the Yangtze River caused large flooding of urban, industrial, and agricultural areas, and profound land use changes took place. Consequently, substantial amounts of organic and inorganic pollutants were released into the reservoir. Additionally, contaminants and nutrients are entering the reservoir by drift, drainage, and runoff from adjacent agricultural areas as well as from sewage of industry, aquacultures, and households. The main aim of the presented research project is a deeper understanding of the processes that determines the bioaccumulation and biomagnification of organic pollutants, i.e., mainly pesticides, in aquatic food webs under the newly developing conditions of the TGR. The project is part of the Yangtze-Hydro environmental program, financed by the German Ministry of Education and Science. In order to test combinations of environmental factors like nutrients and pollution, we use an integrated modeling approach to study the potential accumulation and biomagnification. We describe the integrative modeling approach and the consecutive adaption of the AQUATOX model, used as modeling framework for ecological risk assessment. As a starting point, pre-calibrated simulations were adapted to Yangtze-specific conditions (regionalization). Two exemplary food webs were developed by a thorough review of the pertinent literature. The first typical for the flowing conditions of the original Yangtze River and the Daning River near the city of Wushan, and the second for the stagnant reservoir characteristics of the aforementioned region that is marked by an intermediate between lake and large river communities of aquatic organisms. In close cooperation with German and Chinese partners of the Yangtze-Hydro Research Association, other site-specific parameters were estimated. The MINIBAT project contributed to the calibration of physicochemical and bathymetric parameters, and the TRANSMIC project delivered hydrodynamic models for water volume and flow velocity conditions. The research questions were firstly focused on the definition of scenarios that could depict representative situations regarding food webs, pollution, and flow conditions in the TGR. The food webs and the abiotic site conditions in the main study area near the city of Wushan that determine the environmental preconditions for the organisms were defined. In our conceptual approach, we used the pesticide propanil as a model substance.


Three Gorges Reservoir Yangtze food webs Bioaccumulation Biomagnification AQUATOX framework Regionalization Simulation Environmental risk assessment Integrated environmental modeling 



Our study has been carried out as part of the project MICROTOX (“Transformation, Bioaccumulation and Toxicity of Organic Micropollutants in the Yangtze Three Gorges Reservoir” which is integrated into the joint environmental research program “Yangtze-Hydro-sustainable Management of the Newly Created Ecosystem at the Three Gorges Dam” (Bergmann et al. 2012, The project has been financed by the Federal Bureau of Education and Science of Germany (BMBF) as part of the research cluster “Pollutants/Water/Sediment—Impacts of Transformation and Transportation Processes on the Yangtze Water Quality.”


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Björn Scholz-Starke
    • 1
  • Richard Ottermanns
    • 1
  • Ursula Rings
    • 1
  • Tilman Floehr
    • 1
  • Henner Hollert
    • 1
  • Junli Hou
    • 2
  • Bo Li
    • 3
  • Ling Ling Wu
    • 4
  • Xingzhong Yuan
    • 3
  • Katrin Strauch
    • 1
  • Hu Wei
    • 5
  • Stefan Norra
    • 5
  • Andreas Holbach
    • 5
  • Bernhard Westrich
    • 6
  • Andreas Schäffer
    • 1
  • Martina Roß-Nickoll
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Environmental ResearchRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.East China Sea Fisheries Research InstituteShanghaiChina
  3. 3.College of Resources and Environmental ScienceChongqing UniversityChongqingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Environmental Science and EngineeringTongji UniversityShanghaiChina
  5. 5.Institute of Mineralogy and GeochemistryKarlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany
  6. 6.Institute of Hydraulic EngineeringUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

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