Assessment of the flow regime alterations in the middle reach of the Yangtze River associated with dam construction: potential ecological implications

Yuankun Wang, Bruce L Rhoads, Dong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Hydrological regimes strongly influence the biotic diversity of river ecosystems by structuring physical habitat within river channels and on floodplains. Modification of hydrological regimes by dam construction can have important consequences for river ecosystems. This study examines the impacts of the construction of two dams, the Gezhouba Dam and the Three Gorges Dam, on the hydrological regime of the Yangtze River in China. Analysis of hydrological change before and after dam construction is investigated by evaluating changes in the medians and ranges of variability of 33 hydrological parameters. Results show that the hydrological impact of the Gezhouba Dam is relatively small, affecting mainly the medians and variability of low flows, the rate of rise, and the number of hydrological reversals. The closure of the Three Gorges Dam has substantially altered the downstream flow regime, affecting the seasonal distribution of flows, the variability of flows, the magnitude of minimum flows, low-flow pulses, the rate of rise, and hydrological reversals. These changes in flow regime have greatly influenced the aquatic biodiversity and fish community structure within the Yangtze River. In particular, populations of migratory fish have been negatively impacted. The results help to identify the magnitudes of hydrological alteration associated with the construction of dams on this important large river and also provide useful information to guide strategies aimed at restoration of the river's ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3949-3966
Number of pages18
JournalHydrological Processes
Volume30
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 15 2016

Keywords

  • Gezhouba Dam
  • Three Gorges Dam
  • Yangtze River
  • ecological impact
  • hydrological alterations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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