Lake level assessment is essential for the protection of ecosystem in shrunk or shrinking lakes. Minimum ecological lake level is the critical lake level below which there should be no human activities to further decrease the lake level, and this level can provide a certain protection for the lake ecosystem. Lake surface area method was proposed to define the minimum ecological lake storage as the breakpoint of the lake surface area-storage curve, where the curve slope equals to the ratio of maximum lake surface area to maximum lake storage. If the curve can be expressed as a simple analytical function, the minimum ecological lake storage can be calculated analytically. Otherwise, it can be calculated numerically using the ideal point method for an equivalent multi-objective optimization model that balances ecosystem protection and water use. Then the minimum ecological lake level can be estimated from the lake level-storage curve. Compared with available lake morphology analysis methods, the lake surface area method is superior in its definition of minimum ecological lake level, applicable range of lake morphology, and calculation complexity. The proposed method was applied to two representative lakes in China, including one freshwater lake (the Dongting Lake in Hunan province in Central China) and one saltwater lake (the Ebinur Lake in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in Northwest China). The estimated minimum ecological lake level for the Dongting Lake is 26.7 m, at which 31% of the maximum lake storage provides 87% of the maximum lake surface area. The result for the Ebinur Lake is 191.2 m, at which 24% of the maximum lake storage provides 54% of the maximum lake surface area. The estimated minimum ecological lake level balances the conflict between economical and ecological water uses, and can provide a relatively larger habitat for the lake ecosystem with relatively smaller lake storage. These results are rational compared with the results of other methods. The calculated minimum ecological lake level can be used in the protection of lake ecosystems and the planning and rational use of water resources in lake basins.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abbaspour M, Nazaridoust A. 2007. Determination of environmental water requirements of Lake Urmia, Iran: an ecological approach. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 64(2): 161–169.
Beca. 2008. Draft Guidelines for the Selection of Methods to Determine Ecological Flows and Water Levels. Report prepared by Beca Infrastructure Ltd for MfE. Wellington: Ministry for the Environment, 41–73.
Browne R A. 1981. Lakes as islands: biogeographic distribution, turnover rates, and species composition in the lakes of central New York. Journal of Biogeography, 8(1): 75–83.
Cui B S, Zhao X, Yang Z F. 2005. Eco-hydrology-based calculation of the minimum ecological water requirement for lakes. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 25(7): 1788–1795.
Du Y, Xue H P, Wu S J, et al. 2011. Lake area changes in the middle Yangtze region of China over the 20th century. Journal of Environmental Management, 92(4): 1248–1255.
Editorial Board of Handbook of Mathematics. 1979. Handbook of Mathematics. Beijing: Higher Education Press, 238.
Gippel C J, Stewardson M J. 1998. Use of wetted perimeter in defining minimum environmental flows. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management, 14(1): 53–67.
Jain S K. 2012. Assessment of environmental flow requirements. Hydrological Processes, 26(22): 3472–3476.
Jiang J H, Huang Q. 2004. Analysis of the lake basin change and the rushing-silting features in the past decades of Dongting Lake. Journal of Lake Sciences, 16(3): 209–214.
Li L J, Li J Y, Liang L Q, et al. 2009. Method for calculating ecological water storage and ecological water requirement of marsh. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 19(4): 427–436.
Li X H, Song Y D, Li Y T, et al. 2007. Calculation methods of lowest ecological water level of lake. Arid Land Geography, 30(4): 526–530.
Liu D W, Abuduwaili J, Lei J Q, et al. 2011. Wind erosion of saline playa sediments and its ecological effects in Ebinur Lake, Xinjiang, China. Environmental Earth Sciences, 63(2): 241–250.
Liu Y Q, Wang X F, Wu Y. 2008. Study on the lowest ecological water level of Aiby Lake. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment, 22(10): 111–114.
Ma R H, Duan H T, Hu C M, et al. 2010. A half-century of changes in China’s lakes: Global warming or human influence? Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L24106, doi: 10.1029/2010GL045514.
Micklin P, Aladin N V. 2008. Reclaiming the Aral Sea. Scientific American, 298(4): 64–71.
Shang S H. 2006. System Analysis of Water Resources: Methods and Applications. Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, 135–137.
Shang S H. 2008. Amultiple criteria decision-making approach to estimate minimum environmental flows based on wetted perimeter. River Research and Applications, 24(1): 54–67.
Tan Y Y, Wang X, Li C H, et al. 2012. Estimation of ecological flow requirement in Zoige Alpine Wetland of southwest China. Environmental Earth Sciences, 66(5): 1525–1533.
Tharme R E. 2003. A global perspective on environmental flow assessment: Emerging trends in the development and application of environmental flow methodologies for rivers. River Research and Applications, 19(5–6): 397–441.
Xie Y H, Li F, Chen X S. 2012. Study on the minimum ecological water demand for the Dongting Lake. Resources and Environment in the Yangtze Basin, 21(1): 64–70.
Xu Z X, Chen M J, Dong Z C. 2004. Researches on the calculation methods of the lowest ecological water level of lake. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 24(10): 2324–2328.
Zhao S Q, Fang J Y, Miao S L, et al. 2005. The 7-decade degradation of a large freshwater lake in central Yangtze River, China. Environmental Science and Technology, 39(2): 431–436.
About this article
Cite this article
Shang, S. Lake surface area method to define minimum ecological lake level from level-area-storage curves. J. Arid Land 5, 133–142 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-013-0153-3
- lake level assessment
- minimum ecological lake level
- lake surface area
- lake storage
- multi-objective optimization model