An investigation of enhanced recessions in Poyang Lake: Comparison of Yangtze River and local catchment impacts

Qi Zhang, Xu-chun Ye, Adrian Werner, Yunliang Li, Jin Yao, Xianghu Li, Chong-yu Xu

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    212 Citations (Scopus)


    Changes in lake hydrological regimes and the associated impacts on water supplies and ecosystems are internationally recognized issues. During the past decade, the persistent dryness of Poyang Lake (the largest freshwater lake in China) has caused water supply and irrigation crises for the 12.4 million inhabitants of the region. There is conjecture as to whether this dryness is caused by climate variability and/or human activities. This study examines long-term datasets of catchment inflow and Lake outflow, and employs a physically-based hydrodynamic model to explore catchment and Yangtze River controls on the Lake's hydrology. Lake water levels fell to their lowest during 2001-2010 relative to previous decades. The average Lake size and volume reduced by 154km 2 and 11×10 8 m 3 during the same period, compared to those for the preceding period (1970-2000). Model simulations demonstrated that the drainage effect of the Yangtze River was the primary causal factor. Modeling also revealed that, compared to climate variability impacts on the Lake catchment, modifications to Yangtze River flows from the Three Gorges Dam have had a much greater impact on the seasonal (September-October) dryness of the Lake. Yangtze River effects are attenuated in the Lake with distance from the River, but nonetheless propagate some 100km to the Lake's upstream limit. Proposals to build additional dams in the upper Yangtze River and its tributaries are expected to impose significant challenges for the management of Poyang Lake. Hydraulic engineering to modify the flow regime between the Lake and the Yangtze River would somewhat resolve the seasonal dryness of the Lake, but will likely introduce other issues in terms of water quality and aquatic ecosystem health, requiring considerable further research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)425-434
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Sep 2014


    • Hydrodynamic model
    • Lake-river interaction
    • Mann-Kendall test
    • Poyang Lake
    • Water level
    • Yangtze River


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