Effects of hydrological regulation and anthropogenic pollutants on Dongting Lake in the Yangtze floodplain

X. Chen (Corresponding author), S. Mcgowan, L. Xu, L. Zeng, X. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Dongting Lake, a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, is the hydrological lynchpin of the Yangtze floodplain. It is subjected to eutrophication and heavy metal pollution, but little is known of recent rapid degradation of its aquatic environment and potential causes. Here, we use sedimentary records of particle size, elements and pigments, combined with historical hydrological and limnological data, to assess aquatic environmental changes since ca 1960. Coarse particles in the sediments increased after 2003, while concentrations of K, Li, Al and Mg declined. These changes are probably linked to strong erosion of the downstream riverbed and declining supply of ion-rich material from the upper Yangtze reaches after the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) began to operate. Furthermore, enrichment of sedimentary heavy metals and total phosphorus since the 1990s can be attributed to the influx of anthropogenic pollutants. Biotic responses are manifested in higher concentrations of fossil algal pigments, especially those from chlorophytes and siliceous algae after the TGD impoundment. Multivariate analysis revealed that changes in fossil pigments were significantly correlated with total phosphorus and Pb and three indicators for hydrological conditions (i.e. coarse particles, water exchange ratio and sediment discharge), indicating that influx of anthropogenic pollutants and hydrological regulation by the TGD are main drivers of algal community change. Our results provide reference conditions for restoration of Dongting Lake and highlight the importance of hydrological connection with the mainstream and pollution control for continuing efforts to restore Dongting Lake, as well as other similar floodplain lakes worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-325
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Algal pigment
  • Dongting Lake
  • Eutrophication
  • Hydrological regulation
  • Sediment records
  • The Yangtze River
  • Three Gorges Dam


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