The development of biodiversity conservation measures in China's hydro projects: A review

Ruiqiao Bai, Xuehua Liu*, Xiaofei Liu, Lanmei Liu, Jianping Wang, Sihui Liao, Annah Zhu, Zhouyan Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The hydropower capacity of China ranks first in the world and accounts for approximately 20% of the total energy production in the country. While hydropower has substantially contributed to meeting China's renewable energy targets and providing clean energy to rural areas, the development of hydropower in China has been met with significant controversy. Ecologically, hydro projects alter the landscape, with potential impacts to the country's aquatic biodiversity. Over the past four decades in China, various mainstream opinions and misunderstandings have been presented concerning how to alleviate the negative impacts of hydro projects on aquatic ecosystems. This article reviews research concerning potential mitigation measures to enhance aquatic biodiversity conservation in hydro projects in China. Based on the academic attention such research has attracted, three technical measures for aquatic biodiversity conservation are considered: (1) fish passages, (2) restocking efforts and (3) river and lake renovations. This article provides a historical comparison of these three practices in China to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of each method. The article also reviews the relevant legislation, regulations and technical guidelines concerning China's hydro projects dating back to 1979. The dynamics in research, publications, and patents concerning these three mitigation measures are summarized to demonstrate their technological developments in the context of legislative and policy advances. Data were gathered through the China Knowledge Resource Integrated Database and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People's Republic of China. Based on the analysis provided, the article recommends an expansion of China's environmental certification system for hydro projects, more robust regional legislation to bolster the national framework, the cooperation between upstream and downstream conservation mechanisms, and better monitoring to determine the efficacy of mitigation measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-298
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • China
  • Hydropower
  • Policy
  • Research


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