Evolution of the mid-channel bars in the middle and lower reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River from 1989 to 2014 based on the Landsat satellite images: impact of the Three Gorges Dam

  • Yaying Lou
  • Xuefei Mei
  • Zhijun Dai
  • Jie Wang
  • Wen Wei
Original Article


The mid-channel bars have long been identified as essential landforms in the large rivers of the world, and the significance of connectivity between morphology and flow-sediment dynamics has been intensively emphasized. In this study, remote sensing images and associated hydrological data from 1989 to 2014 were used to explore mid-channel bars evolution in the middle and lower reach of the Changjiang and their responses to the Three Gorges Dam (TGD), the world’s largest hydrological engineering. The results indicated that mid-channel bars, respectively, exhibited deposition and erosion in the flood and dry season in pre-TGD period, while mild deposition in flood season and deposition in dry season were found in post-TGD period. As a consequence, mid-channel bars area was characterized by ‘remarkable seasonal differences in pre-TGD period, mild seasonal pattern in post-TGD period’. The obvious shift in seasonal features could be attributed to the TGD operation in 2003. Specifically, flood duration decrease and sediment load reduction following TGD regulation suppressed the bars growth in flood season. TGD-induced variations in differences between sediment carry capacity and suspended sediment concentration resulted in the bars transformation in dry season. Meanwhile, the change trends of downstream mid-channel bars became weak as their locations’ distance to TGD increases because of the river adjustment and tributaries supplement. Moreover, mid-channel bars in different river patterns presented various change trends with the most remarkable variation being detected in goose-head-shaped river pattern. The results of this paper provide a theoretical basis for the river channel improvement in the middle and lower reaches of the Changjiang River.


Mid-channel bars Morphodynamic process Sediment Changjiang (Yangtze) River Three Gorges Dam (TGD) 



This study was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (41706093). The Laboratory for Marine Geology, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (MGQNLM201706) and the Key Laboratory of Coastal Science and Engineering, Beibu Gulf, Guangxi (2016KYB01).

Author contributions

ZD jointly conceived the study. JW collected the field data and processed the remote sensing images. WW and YL undertook the sediment carry capacity computation. XM provided valuable suggestions on the mid-channel bars evolution analysis. All co-authors contributed to the discussion. YL drafted the main manuscript, which was then commented and edited by XM and ZD.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yaying Lou
    • 1
  • Xuefei Mei
    • 1
  • Zhijun Dai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jie Wang
    • 1
  • Wen Wei
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Lab of Estuarine and Coastal ResearchEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Laboratory for Marine GeologyQingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina

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