Little impact of Three Gorges Dam on recent decadal lake decline across China's Yangtze Plain

Wang, J., Sheng, Y., & Wada, Y. ORCID: (2017). Little impact of Three Gorges Dam on recent decadal lake decline across China's Yangtze Plain. Water Resources Research 53 (5) 3854-3877. 10.1002/2016WR019817.

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The ubiquitous lakes across China's Yangtze Plain (YP) are indispensable freshwater resources sustaining ecosystems and socioeconomics for nearly half a billion people. Our recent survey revealed a widespread net decline in the total YP lake inundation area during 2000–2011 (a cumulative decrease of ∼10%), yet its mechanism remains contentious. Here, we uncover the impacts of climate variability and anthropogenic activities including i) Yangtze flow and sediment alterations by the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) and ii) human water consumption in agricultural, industrial, and domestic sectors throughout the downstream Yangtze Basin. Results suggest that climate variability is the dominant driver of this decadal lake decline, whereas studied human activities, despite varying seasonal impacts that peak in fall, contribute marginal fraction (∼10–20% or less) to the interannual lake area decrease. Given that the TGD impacts on the total YP lake area and its seasonal variation are both under ∼5%, we also dismiss the speculation that the TGD might be responsible for evident downstream climate change by altering lake surface extent and thus open water evaporation. Nevertheless, anthropogenic impacts exhibited a strengthening trend during the past decade. Although the TGD has reached its full-capacity water regulation, the negative impacts of human water consumption and TGD-related net channel erosion are already comparable to that of TGD's flow regulation, and may continue to grow as crucial anthropogenic factors to future YP lake conservation.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Water (WAT)
Depositing User: Romeo Molina
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2017 08:10
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:28

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