Marine Science Faculty Publications

Dramatic Inundation Changes of China’s Two Largest Freshwater Lakes Linked to the Three Gorges Dam

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Ever since its planning in the 1990s, the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) caused endless debate in China on its potential impacts on the environment and humans. However, to date, synoptic assessment of environmental changes and their potential linkage with the TGD is still lacking. Here, we combine remote sensing, meteorological, and hydrological observations to investigate the potential influence of the TGD on the downstream freshwater lakes. A 10 year Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) time series from 2000 to 2009 revealed significantly decreasing trends (3.3 and 3.6%/year) in the inundation areas of the two largest freshwater lakes of China (Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake) downstream of the TGD since its impoundment in 2003, after which both relative humidity and surface runoff coefficient of the lakes’ drainages also dropped dramatically. These environmental changes appear to be linked to the TGD.

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Environmental Science & Technology, v. 47, issue 17, p. 9628-9634