Has the Three-Gorges Dam made the Poyang Lake wetlands wetter and drier?
The Three-Georges Dam holds many records in the history of engineering. While the dam has produced benefits in terms of flood control, hydropower generation and increased navigation capacity of the Yangtze River, serious questions have been raised concerning its impact on both upstream and downstream ecosystems. It has been suggested that the dam operation intensifies the extremes of wet and dry conditions in the downstream Poyang Lake, and affects adversely important local wetlands. A floodgate has been proposed to maintain the lake water level by controlling the flow between the Poyang Lake and Yangtze River. Using extensive hydrological data and generalized linear statistical models, we demonstrated that the dam operation induces major changes in the downstream river discharge near the dam, including an average "water loss". The analysis also revealed considerable effects on the Poyang Lake water level, particularly a reduced level over the dry period from late summer to autumn. However, the dam impact needs to be further assessed based on long-term monitoring of the lake ecosystem, covering a wide range of parameters related to hydrological and hydraulic characteristics of the lake, water quality, geomorphological characteristics, aquatic biota and their habitat, wetland vegetation and associated fauna.