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New study: Flow alteration in China may ruin Argun river wetlands

8 January 2012 Topics:

At the 5th International Conference “Earth from space – most effective solutions”, in December 2011, Moscow State University (MSU) hydrologists presented the results of research on expected consequences of water infrastructure projects in the basin of the transboundary Argun River. The scientists came to the conclusion that if all planned water management projects in Chinese part of the Argun River flow are implemented, the floodplain area in the river valley will decrease by half.

Experts from Land Hydrology Department at the MSU geographic faculty have been carrying the investigation of the Argun River basin for 2 years on the contract with Amur Basin Water Management Authority.

There is intensive economic development in the headwaters of the Argun River in China, causing increased use of local water resources. At

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the same time, there is a project underway to artificially raise the water level in Lake Dalai (Hulun).

According to researchers, hydro economic activities, mainly in Chinese national territory, will unavoidably affect the hydrological and environmental

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conditions at the Russian-Chinese transboundary section of theArgun River. A set of special surveys has been completed with the purpose of identifying the associated impact, in particular, interpretation and analysis of the satellite imagery. Processing of Landsat 4 satellite imagery acquired between 1993 and 2010 in combination with digital terrain model SRTM (2000) resulted in a quantitative correlation between the area of the Lake Dalai and the level of water. This became the basis for calculating the evaporation rates from the water body surface and modeling the lake fill up rates based on various rates of irrecoverable runoff losses. It has been determined that the hydrological regime of the lake (as any other terminal lake in the region) has certain drying up and fill up cycles, each approximately 20-40 years long.

The research of the trends of changes in the floodplain flooding areas depending on the morphology of the river valley and the flow of river indicated that, in event of all the projected water infrastructre projects in Chinese part of the Argun River flow are implemented, the floodplain area in the valley depressions will be reduced down to 40% of its present area. The most affected will be the area of the nature reserve “Erguna wetlands ” in China.

The anthropogenic changes to the hydrology will inevitably affect the channel morphology and dynamics. Changes in the river channel structure, activation of some and decline of other river channels not only pose a threat to the social and industrial facilities, but

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are also a critical factor in destabilization of the international boundary.

Source: Scanex

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