Three Gorges Dam, China



A diversity of issues at this site make it an interesting case study of a social-ecological system. Ecological impacts of dam construction vary from direct impacts on streamflow as well as reservoir filling. The impacts of the construction materials used to build one of the world’s largest hydro-electric facilities are interestgin to consider, as well as the relative impacts of China obtaining power from some alternative energy source (such as coal, solar, etc.). Movement of residents is impacting the landscape mosaic in valley bottoms and mountainous slopes as corresponding changes in the location of village settlements and agricultural patterns emerge.

Knowledge of Mandarin is an asset for this case study, enabling access to numerous publications not in English, thus increasing the potential creativity of a group’s approach (e.g., comparing estimates from internal and external reports). However, any lack of familiarity should not be seen as at all restrictive to anyone interested in the area.


Energy/Resources :    Three Gorges Complete    Changes in energy, exports, etc.    Small Dams Harm Environment    Nuclear Power Plans Unfazed    Three Gorges Dam overview    China to cap coal use    International Commission on Large Dams    Hydroelectric Power    Water Diversion Project    Solar Energy    Investing in Solar Energy in Asia    Pace of Chinese Development   The Price of Damming Tibet’s Rivers

Agriculture:  Farmland Is Polluted    Too Polluted to Farm     Urban Agriculture

Conservation/Ecology:    Peak Phosphorus    Curb Air Pollution Sets    Poisonous Waterways    River’s Power Threaten a Region   China’s Cap-and-Trade Program

Society/Urban:    Urbanization    Illegal Ivory    Historic Gardens

Basic Geodata

Land cover data (compatible with ArcGIS) will be provided to you in class, covering three past time periods since the 1980s. The links below will show you the approximate boundaries (as seen in Google Earth with recent years), as well as the basic changes in land cover.

view in Google Earth

view Simple Land Cover Maps

Remember, in addition to Landsat-derived land cover, there are several more auxiliary geodata sets that have already been collected for you and will be provided in lab. These data include: terrain/elevation, nightlights which represent population, floristic zones, etc. and are available at all study locations. These datasets are introduced and explained further under Additional Data Sources. In addition to these ready-to-go, prepared auxiliary datasets, this page also provides ideas for additional datasets you might find on your own.