Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1063–1073 | Cite as

Climatic and human drivers of recent lake-level change in East Juyan Lake, China

  • Shengchun Xiao
  • Xiaomei Peng
  • Quanyan Tian
Original Article


Drying of an inland river’s terminal lake in arid regions is an important signal of environmental degradation in downstream regions. A long-term, high-resolution understanding of the lake’s retreat and expansion and the driving mechanisms will inform future adaptive water management strategies, ecosystem restoration, and government decision-making in the context of a growing water scarcity in the inland river basin. The shrubs that grow along the shore of a lake often provide evidence of lake retreat or expansion. The chronological results showed that the earliest germination dates of the lakeshore shrubs, tamarisk, were in 1901, 1943, 1966, 2009, and 1990 from the higher terrace to the lower terrace of East Juyan Lake, a terminal lake of China’s Heihe River. Coupled with river and lake hydrological data, six obvious lake’s fluctuations were identified: shrinkage from 1900 to 1940s and during the early 1990s, expansion and retreat in the late 1950s and early 1970s, continued expansion from 2002 to 2008, and stabilization at a water area of around 40 km2 from 2009 to the present. The water elevation in the 1900s was below 905 m a.s.l., resulting in a water area <80 km2, but decreased to 40 km2 after 1960 and dried up completely by the 1990s. By analysing climatic and hydrological records since 1950, tree-ring climate proxy data, river runoff outside the observation period, and water resource consumption in the middle and lower reaches of the Heihe River, we found that the periodic expansion and retreat of East Juyan Lake was influenced by both climate change and human activities, but especially by human activities. The lake’s recent recovery and stability was achieved by government policy designed to provide environmental flows to the lake.


Dendrochronology Lake drying Juyan Lake Heihe River Basin Tamarix ramosissima 



This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91125026; 41471082) and STS Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences (KFJ-EW-STS-00502).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecohydrology of Inland River Basin, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)LanzhouChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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