Impacts of large dams on the complexity of suspended sediment dynamics in the Yangtze River

Yuankun Wang, Bruce L. Rhoads, Dong Wang, Jichun Wu, Xiao Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Yangtze River is one of the largest and most important rivers in the world. Over the past several decades, the natural sediment regime of the Yangtze River has been altered by the construction of dams. This paper uses multi-scale entropy analysis to ascertain the impacts of large dams on the complexity of high-frequency suspended sediment dynamics in the Yangtze River system, especially after impoundment of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD). In this study, the complexity of sediment dynamics is quantified by framing it within the context of entropy analysis of time series. Data on daily sediment loads for four stations located in the mainstem are analyzed for the past 60 years. The results indicate that dam construction has reduced the complexity of short-term (1–30 days) variation in sediment dynamics near the structures, but that complexity has actually increased farther downstream. This spatial pattern seems to reflect a filtering effect of the dams on the on the temporal pattern of sediment loads as well as decreased longitudinal connectivity of sediment transfer through the river system, resulting in downstream enhancement of the influence of local sediment inputs by tributaries on sediment dynamics. The TGD has had a substantial impact on the complexity of sediment series in the mainstem of the Yangtze River, especially after it became fully operational. This enhanced impact is attributed to the high trapping efficiency of this dam and its associated large reservoir. The sediment dynamics “signal” becomes more spatially variable after dam construction. This study demonstrates the spatial influence of dams on the high-frequency temporal complexity of sediment regimes and provides valuable information that can be used to guide environmental conservation of the Yangtze River.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-195
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume558
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Keywords

  • Complexity property
  • Sediment dynamics
  • Three Gorges Dam
  • Yangtze River

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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