Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 6, pp 4939–4960 | Cite as

Assessment of geo-hazards in a rapidly changing landscape: the three Gorges Reservoir Region in China

  • Alexander StrehmelEmail author
  • Sarah Schönbrodt-Stitt
  • Giovanni Buzzo
  • Christian Dumperth
  • Felix Stumpf
  • Karsten Zimmermann
  • Katrin Bieger
  • Thorsten Behrens
  • Karsten Schmidt
  • Renneng Bi
  • Joachim Rohn
  • Joachim Hill
  • Thomas Udelhoven
  • Wei Xiang
  • Xuezheng Shi
  • Qinghua Cai
  • Tong Jiang
  • Nicola Fohrer
  • Thomas Scholten
Original Article


Large dam projects attract worldwide scientific attention due to their environmental impacts and socioeconomic consequences. One prominent example is the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) at the Yangtze River in China. Due to considerable resettlements, large-scale expansion of infrastructure and shifts in land use and management, the TGD project has irreversible impacts on the Upper Yangtze River Basin and strongly challenges the environmental conditions of this fast-developing region. Soil erosion and landslides are major geo-hazards. Knowing the extent and consequences of those geo-hazards for the landscape is essential to predict and evaluate their risk potential and allows for the development of strategies for a sustainable future land use in the Three Gorges Region (TGR). In this context, our research objectives are (1) to better understand the mechanisms of soil erosion, landslides, and diffuse matter fluxes in the TGR and their anthropogenic and environmental control factors, (2) to predict their hazard potential by combining spatial and temporal, scenario-driven high-resolution modeling in combination with multi-scale earth observation data, and (3) to develop a multi-component approach for the assessment and monitoring of geogene structures and processes. The paper describes the workflow of the project and introduces case studies, representing the current state of our research. It is shown that land-use changes as well as the water-level fluctuations of the reservoir are the crucial drivers for the soil erosion and landslide hazard. Furthermore, we present a framework aiming at the establishment of a monitoring and measuring network as well as an early warning system.


Three Gorges Reservoir Region Land-use change Soil erosion Landslides Diffuse matter inputs Integrated modeling 



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, Grant No. 03G0669 and 03G0827A) for the German-Sino research collaboration YANGTZE-GEO. We especially thank Dr. Xiang Wei and the students of the Department of Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology of the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan for collaborating and supporting in the field campaigns. We further highly appreciate assistance in laboratory analyses that have been carried out at the Institute of Hydrobiology and the Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute in Wuhan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Strehmel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Schönbrodt-Stitt
    • 2
  • Giovanni Buzzo
    • 3
  • Christian Dumperth
    • 4
  • Felix Stumpf
    • 2
  • Karsten Zimmermann
    • 5
  • Katrin Bieger
    • 6
  • Thorsten Behrens
    • 2
  • Karsten Schmidt
    • 2
  • Renneng Bi
    • 4
  • Joachim Rohn
    • 4
  • Joachim Hill
    • 3
  • Thomas Udelhoven
    • 3
  • Wei Xiang
    • 7
  • Xuezheng Shi
    • 8
  • Qinghua Cai
    • 9
  • Tong Jiang
    • 10
  • Nicola Fohrer
    • 1
  • Thomas Scholten
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Institute of Natural Resource ConservationUniversity of KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Department of Geosciences, Chair of Soil Science and GeomorphologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Remote Sensing and Geo-informaticsUniversity of TrierTrierGermany
  4. 4.Geo-Center of Northern Bavaria, Chair of Applied GeologyUniversity Erlangen-NurembergErlangenGermany
  5. 5.Exploration and GeosurveyDMT GmbH & Co. KGEssenGermany
  6. 6.Texas A&M AgriLifeBlackland Research and Extension CenterTempleUSA
  7. 7.Department of Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering GeologyChina University of GeosciencesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  8. 8.Department for Soil Resources and Remote Sensing Application, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  9. 9.Institute of HydrobiologyChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  10. 10.China Meteorological AdministrationNational Climate CenterBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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