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 Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The disappearance of common species
01.02.2018 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)

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: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>