Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 2028–2038 | Cite as

Fractal characterization of sediment particle size distribution in the water-level fluctuation zone of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China

  • Jin-lin Li
  • Yu-hai BaoEmail author
  • Jie Wei
  • Xiu-bin HeEmail author
  • Qiang Tang
  • Jean de Dieu Nambajimana


The combined effect of periodic water impoundment and seasonal natural flood events has created a 30 m high water-level fluctuation zone (WLFZ) around the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR), China, forming a unique eco-landscape. Siltation, eutrophication, enrichment of heavy metals, and methane emissions in the WLFZ have been widely associated with sediment and soil particles generated from the upstream catchment or upland slopes. However, little attention has been paid to the complexity of sediment particle-size distributions in the WLFZ. In the present study, core samples (from a 345 cm thick sediment core from the base of the WLFZ), slope transect surface samples (across/up a WLFZ slope), and along-river/longitudinal surface samples (from the reservoir reaches) were collected. Laser granulometry and a volume-based fractal model were used to reveal the characteristics of sediment particle-size distributions. Results indicate that the alternation of coarse and fine particles in the sedimentary core profile is represented as a fluctuation of low and high values of fractal dimension (D), ranging from 2.59 to 2.77. On the WLFZ slope transect, surface sediment particles coarsen with increasing elevation, sand content increases from 3.3% to 78.5%, and D decreases from 2.76 to 2.53. Longitudinally, surface sediments demonstrate a downstream-fining trend, and D increases gradually downstream. D is significantly positively correlated with the fine particle content. We conclude that D is a useful measure for evaluating sediment particle-size distribution.


Spatial differentiation Sediment particle Fractal dimension Water level fluctuation zone Three Gorges Reservoir 


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This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 41771320, 41771321, and 41571278), the Opening Project of Chongqing Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Environmental Remote Sensing in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area (Grant no. DBGC201801), and the Sichuan Science and Technology Program (Grant no. 2018SZ0132). We thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments that improved the quality of this paper and are grateful to Ms. Yan Dandan for her help with the laboratory analyses.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.Chongqing Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Environmental Remote Sensing in the Three Gorges Reservoir AreaChongqingChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Sustainable Agriculture Sciences DepartmentRothamsted ResearchOkehampton, DevonUK

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