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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2018-138
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2018-138
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Jan 2019

Research article | 08 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Impacts of Three Gorges Dam's operation on spatial-temporal patterns of tide-river dynamics in the Yangtze River estuary, China

Huayang Cai1,2, Xianyi Zhang1, Leicheng Guo2, Min Zhang3, Feng Liu1, and Qingshu Yang1 Huayang Cai et al.
  • 1Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Research, School of Marine Engineering and Technology, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China
  • 3Shanghai Normal University, School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Shanghai, China

Abstract. The Three Gorges Dam (TGD), located in the mainstream of the Yangtze River, is the world's largest hydroelectric station in terms of installed power capacity. It was demonstrated that the TGD had caused considerable modifications in the downstream freshwater discharge due to its seasonal operation mode of multiple utilisation for flood control, irrigation, and power generation. To understand the impacts of the freshwater regulation of TGD, an analytical model is adopted to explore how the operation of TGD may affect the spatial-temporal patterns of tide-river dynamics in the Yangtze River estuary. We evaluated the effect of TGD by comparing the changes in major tide-river dynamics in the post-TGD period (2003–2014) with those in the pre-TGD period (1979–1984). The results indicate that the strongest impacts occurred during the autumn and winter, corresponding to a substantial reduction in freshwater discharge during the wet-to-dry transition period and slightly increased discharge during the dry season. The underlying mechanism leading to changes in the tide-river dynamics lies in the alteration of freshwater discharge, while the impact of geometric change is minimal. Overall, the results suggest that the spatial-temporal patterns of tide-river dynamics is sensible to the freshwater regulation of the TGD, to the extent that the ecosystem function of the estuary may undergo profound disturbances. The results obtained from this study can be used to set scientific guidelines for water resource management (e.g. navigation, flood control, salt intrusion) in dam-controlled estuarine systems.

Huayang Cai et al.
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Short summary
In this study we assessed the impacts of the world’s largest dam, Three Gorges Dam (TGD), on tide-river dynamics and concluded that the strongest impacts occurred during autumn and winter owing to the TGD's operation. The results obtained will, hopefully, enhance our understanding of the impacts of large-scale human interventions on estuarine hydrodynamics and guide effective and sustainable water management in the Yangtze River estuary and other estuaries with substantial freshwater discharge.
In this study we assessed the impacts of the world’s largest dam, Three Gorges Dam (TGD), on...
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