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 Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

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: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>