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01-12-2008 | Review Paper | Issue 13/2008

Biodiversity and Conservation 13/2008

Impacts of large dams on riparian vegetation: applying global experience to the case of China’s Three Gorges Dam

Journal:
Biodiversity and Conservation > Issue 13/2008
Authors:
Thomas New, Zongqiang Xie

Abstract

Dams are widely recognised as having significant negative consequences for the surrounding natural ecosystems and environment. China’s Three Gorges Dam, being one of the largest in the world, stands to inflict more damage than most for numerous reasons. This paper reviews the current knowledge on the impacts of dams and impoundments with regard to reservoir riparian vegetation in order to apply this knowledge to the Three Gorges Project. It also summarises research performed to date on the effects of the Three Gorges Dam on the local riparian zone and vegetation. The known and potential outcomes for local plant communities are examined in terms of their responses to the increased water levels, altered hydrological characteristics and other adverse effects associated with the construction of the dam. Vegetation responses will be diverse and change over time, but will ultimately result in a markedly different landscape and riparian zone within the Three Gorges Reservoir. These changes will take place through a loss of previous vegetation, potential invasion by exotics and result from the significant alteration in hydrological regimes and also erosion and sedimentation processes influencing and creating novel plant communities. Management of the environmental consequences of the Three Gorges Project should take into account factors associated with these processes, in order to facilitate vegetation recovery in the reservoir and to conserve biodiversity of the surrounding ecosystems.

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