Silicon and sediment transport of the Changjiang River (Yangtze River): could the Three Gorges Reservoir be a filter?

Research paper by Ran Xiangbin, Yu Zhigang, Chen Hongtao, Zhang Xinquan, Guo Hongbo

Indexed on: 06 Feb '13Published on: 06 Feb '13Published in: Environmental Geology


Water samples were collected from the Changjiang River (Yangtze River) in May 2005, after the impoundment of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR), to examine the influence of the TGR and large lakes on material delivery to the estuary of the Changjiang River. The concentrations of suspended particle material (SPM), dissolved silica (DSi) and biogenic silica (BSi) in the main stream were analyzed. The concentrations of DSi and BSi in the main channel of the Changjiang varied between 73 and 100 and 1.1–15 μmol/l, with a distance weighted average of 81 and 8.0 μmol/l, respectively. A calculation shows that live diatom comprises only an average value of 5.2 % of the BSi in the Changjiang River, and most of BSi may come from drainage basin. The concentrations of BSi and the ratios of BSi/SPM were relatively low in the Changjiang River compared to other rivers throughout the world, but the BSi carried in suspension by the Changjiang River was an important component of the rivers silicon load (i.e. ~13 %). SPM, DSi and BSi concentrations as observed in the Changjiang River tend to decrease from the upper sections of the river to the Three Gorges Dam (TGD), reflecting sedimentation associated with BSi trapping and DSi retention in the TGR in the normal-water period. SPM and BSi retention are more strongly influenced by the TGD compared to DSi. About 98 % of SPM, 72 % of BSi and 16 % of DSi were retained within the TGR in May 2005. The fluxes variations of DSi, BSi and SPM suggested that the large lakes and dams had a coupled effect on the transportation of DSi, BSi and SPM in the normal-water period. Such a change in silicon (DSi and BSi) balances of the Changjiang River will affect the ecological environment of the Changjiang estuary and its adjacent sea to some extent.