Strategic assessment of the magnitude and impacts of sand mining in Poyang Lake, China
Regional Environmental Change
International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), P.O. Box 6, 7500 AA Enschede, Netherlands; International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi, Kenya; Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0322, United States; School of Resources and Environmental Science, Wuhan University, 129 Luoyu Road, 430079 Wuhan, China; Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, 6708 PB Wageningen, Netherlands; International Crane Foundation, P.O. Box 447, Baraboo, WI 53913, United States; State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, North Zhongshan Road 3663, Shanghai 200062, China; SERTIT, Strasbourg University, Pole API, Boulevard Sebastien Brant, BP 10413, 67412 Illkirch, France
Planning for the extraction of aggregates is typically dealt with at a case to case basis, without assessing environmental impacts strategically. In this study we assess the impact of sand mining in Poyang Lake, where dredging began in 2001 after sand mining in the Yangtze River had been banned. In April 2008 concern over the impact on the biodiversity led to a ban on sand mining in Poyang Lake until further plans could be developed. Planning will require consideration of both sand extraction in relation to available sediment resources and also environmental impacts within the context of future demand for sand in the lower Yangtze Valley. We used pairs of near-infrared (NIR) Aster satellite imagery to estimate the number of vessels leaving the lake. Based on this we calculated a rate of sand extraction of 236 million m3 year-1 in 2005-2006. This corresponds to 9% of the total Chinese demand for sand. It qualifies Poyang Lake as probably the largest sand mining operation in the world. It also indicates that sand extraction currently dominates the sediment balance of the lower Yangtze River. A positive relation between demand for sand and GDP, revealed by historic data from the USA, suggests that the current per capita demand for sand in China might increase in the near future from 2 to 4 m3 year-1. We review various environmental impacts and question whether it will be possible to preserve the rich biodiversity of the lake, while continuing at the same time satisfying the increasing Chinese demand for sand. Finally we review alternative options for sand mining, in order to relieve the pressure from the Poyang Lake ecosystem. © 2009 Springer-Verlag.