Frontiers of Earth Science

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 640–648 | Cite as

Channel evolution under changing hydrological regimes in anabranching reaches downstream of the Three Gorges Dam

  • Jianqiao Han
  • Wei Zhang
  • Jing Yuan
  • Yongyang Fan
Research Article


Elucidating the influence of dams on fluvial processes can benefit river protection and basin management. Based on hydrological and topographical data, we analyzed channel evolution in anabranching reaches under changing hydrological regimes influenced by the Three Gorges Dam. The main conclusions are as follows: 1) the channels of specific anabranching reaches were defined as flood trend channels or low-flow trend channels according to the distribution of their flow characteristics. The anabranching reaches were classified as T1 or T2. The former is characterized by the correspondence between the flood trend and branch channels, and the latter is characterized by the correspondence between the flood trend and main channels; 2) on the basis of the new classification, the discrepant patterns of channel evolution seen in anabranching reaches were unified into a pattern that showed flood trend channels shrinking and low-flow trend channels expanding; 3) flood abatement and the increased duration of moderate flow discharges are the main factors that affect channel adjustments in anabranching reaches after dam construction; and 4) in the next few decades, the pattern of channel evolution will remain the same as that of the Three Gorges Dam operation. That is, the morphology will fully adapt to a flow with a low coefficient of variation. Our results are of interest in the management of the Yangtze River and other rivers influenced by dams.


anabranching river channel evolution Three Gorges Dam Yangtze River 


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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Plan (2016YFC0402101), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51779184), the West Light Foundation of The Chinese Academy of Sciences (XAB2016B06), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2452017186). The authors are grateful to the editors and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianqiao Han
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Zhang
    • 2
  • Jing Yuan
    • 3
  • Yongyang Fan
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering ScienceWuhan UniversityWuhanChina
  3. 3.Bureau of HydrologyChangjiang Water Resources CommissionWuhanChina
  4. 4.Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and ResearchWuhanChina

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