Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Three Gorges Dam is an opportunity for ecoscience

23.05.2003


China’s Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam project ever, has been seen by ecologists as an environmental disaster in the making. With construction scheduled to be completed later this year, little can be done to stop it, but some Chinese and American ecologists point out that the dark cloud of the environmental consequences does have a silver lining – an unprecedented opportunity to do environmental science.



In an article forthcoming in the May 23 issue of Science, Arizona State University landscape ecologist Jianguo Wu and co-authors Jianhui Huang, Xingguo Han, Zongqiang Xie and Xianming Gao, all from the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, argue that the project represents an opportunity to conduct arguably the largest and most complete experiment ever run on the effects of habitat fragmentation, an ecological condition that affects environments across the globe through the process of ongoing human development.

Habitat fragmentation occurs when human development or some other force eliminates large areas continuous natural habitat, leaving habitat "islands" where remaining species of plants and animals are left in a limited space, isolated from other similar communities and habitats. Examples of the condition are wild spaces (parks or undeveloped lots) that are surrounded by urban development, remnant patches of wilderness that are left when a forest is cleared for farming, or elevated terrestrial habitats that suddenly become scattered islands when a landscape is flooded. While some plant and animal species initially remain on the habitat fragments, the long-term stability of the isolated ecosystems is in question.


In the case of Three Gorges Dam, the reservoir will cover 1080 square kilometers of ecologically rich landscape, leaving several dozen to perhaps more than 100 mountaintops as islands.

"Habitat fragmentation is a pervasive global problem that has generally been recognized as the primary cause of the loss of biodiversity," said Wu, "yet its underlying processes and mechanisms remain poorly understood."

Wu argues that because of the dam’s size, the biological richness of the area, and the possibility of doing thorough before-and-after surveys and studies, the Three Gorges Dam Project would allow the best opportunity to date to study habitat fragmentation, in process and on a full landscape scale. At issue is experimental verification of the fine points of Hierarchical Patch Dynamics, an ecological theory that inter-relates specific plant and animal populations, communities and habitats in a complex and dynamic linkages over diverse landscapes.

"Historically, we have had only a few remarkable natural large-scale ecological experiments with habitat fragmentation," he said. "It is clear that some of the most valuable knowledge of the ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation have been gained by this kind of study. With Three Gorges Dam, we will be able to learn vastly more."

Though similar studies have been done at Gatun Lake in Panama and Lake Guri in Venezuela, no previous study of the effects of habitat fragmentation has had the advantage of the kind of "planned experiment" that Three Gorges Dam represents. Because of the groundwork laid by previous research, the existence of a developed theory to guide the current research and the opportunity to fully study the landscape before it is changed, Three Gorges Dam will allow the thorough testing and refinement of key hypotheses in conservation biology and landscape ecology.

The key issues for the proposed experiment at the moment are time – the dam will be completed later this year and the six-year process of filling will begin – and the need to quickly marshal a team of scientists and a large set of resources from both China and the international community.

"A lot of Chinese ecologists are looking forward to some sort of international collaboration," said Wu "The Chinese government, including the Academy of Sciences, the Natural Science Foundation, and some other agencies have already supported some small projects, but I think it is extremely important to have an international collaborative team to really carry this forward.

"International expertise and funding, combined with existing Chinese resources will make this a very productive project for ecology. I don’t think we could find any other place with this opportunity where we would find all these human resources and support from all angles to do such a gigantic experiment," he said.

Though much will be lost in the process, the knowledge that can be gained from the research may ultimately help humanity better preserve the global biosphere, Wu notes. "The world’s largest dam is not only a demonstration of the mighty power of humanity; it can and should become a unique and rich source of information for understanding and conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services," he said.

James Hathaway | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu/asunews/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>