Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2002, Vol. 57 ›› Issue (4): 429-436.doi: 10.11821/xb200204007

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Hydrological Change and Its Causes in the River Network of the Pearl River Delta

CHEN Xiaohong1, CHEN Yongqin2   

  1. 1. Department of Geography, Zhongshan University, Guangzhou 510275, China;
    2. Department of Geography, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, China
  • Received:2002-01-10 Revised:2002-03-18 Online:2002-07-25 Published:2002-07-25
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 49971019


This paper aims to summarize and illustrate a variety of human-induced hydrologic and geomorphic changes in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) and to analyse the causes and effects.The hydrologic characteristics of the river network have been altered in the following three main aspects. First, stage has become higher or lower over the past decades in an uneven manner in the delta. From the early 1950s to the 1980s, scattered and small embankments were enlarged and combined to expand land mass and reduce flood hazards in the PRD. However, reduction of water surface area and concentration of flow into major channels generally caused stage to go up slightly. Secondly, corresponding to the stage changes, the stage-discharge relationship has been substantially modified, as evidenced by over 2 m drop of stage for the same amount of discharge. Thirdly, the ratio of flow partition into two channels at several river bifurcation points has continuously changed over the past decade. Closely associated with the hydrologic changes are alterations of river channel and estuarine morphologies. Such geomorphic changes primarily include noticeable or even alarmingly severe modification of river channel bed, extension of river mouth and contraction of estuary in the study region. It was found that the hydrologic and geomorphic changes that have occurred within a relatively short period of time are mainly consequences of a wide variety of human activities, coupled with influences of natural events, including (a) channel dredging of sand for construction usage, (b) combination of embankments and construction of dams, (c) channel constriction and reduction or complete loss of floodplain, (d) sea level rise, and (e) channel bed erosion by record floods.

Key words: river network of the Pearl River Delta, hydrological change, human activity, cause