Journal of environmental management | 2019
Predicting hydrological impacts of the Yangtze-to-Huaihe Water Diversion Project on habitat availability for wintering waterbirds at Caizi Lake.
Quantifying the relationship between hydrological regime and habitat availability is the first step to predict potential impacts of water engineering projects on waterbirds, particularly in periodically flooded wetlands. The proposed Yangtze-to-Huaihe Water Diversion Project (YHWD) cuts through Caizi Lake, which is of international importance for wintering waterbirds. In order to explore the potential impacts of the project on habitat availability for the wintering waterbirds, we first built linear models to fit relationships between land cover patterns and water level dynamics in the lake, and then used generalized linear mixed models to test effects of habitat variables (water area, grassland area and mudflat area) on bird abundances of different functional groups. The avian habitat use differed among guilds, and was correlated with the land cover pattern, which was strongly dependent on seasonal water level fluctuations. Following water recession in autumn, the exposure of riparian habitats was more prominent in the eastern part of the lake, where the channel of the proposed YHWD project is located. This part of the lake is also where we located most of the important bird areas. Compared to the current situation, 54.3% of the grassland and 60.5% of the mudflats are predicted to be lost during winter due to the projected water level rise, resulting in reduced habitat availability for grass foragers, invertebrate eaters and tuber feeders. In order to mitigate potential impacts of the YHWD project, we suggest habitat compensations by construction of artificial habitats, and maintenance of water level regime at the whole lake by restoring similarity in water level fluctuations between Xizi Lake and Caizi Lake.