Water temperature is an important factor in aquatic environments. Dam construction, especially the construction of multiple dams in rivers, can greatly affect the downstream water temperature. Several dams, including Wudongde, Baihetan, Xiluodu, Xiangjiaba, Three Gorges, and Gezhouba, have been constructed between Panzhihua and Yichang along the Yangtze River. The aim of this paper was to quantify the impact of these dams on the water temperature downstream. One-dimensional and two-dimensional models were used to simulate the water temperatures, and the results showed that the dams had different cumulative effects on it. For example, in January, after the construction of the Xiangjiaba and Xiluodu dams, the discharge water temperature of Xiangjiaba was 3 °C higher than the natural conditions, and after the construction of the Baihetan and Wudongde dams was completed, it increased by a further 2 °C. The natural river ran over 416 km with no dams from the Xiangjiaba dam to the Cuntan Station. With the influence of climate and tributary inflow, the impact of upstream dams on the water temperature was mitigated by more than 48% at Cuntan Station, displaying a recovery. It seemed that the cumulative effects of dams on the discharge water temperature of the Three Gorges decreased with the increase in the upstream storage capacity from March to May, and the construction of dams even had a negative effect. From September to February of the next year, the cumulative effects increased with the increase of the upstream storage capacity, but only the total storage capacity until a certain level, where no further impact was observed.
Keywords: Chinese sturgeon; Yangtze River; cumulative impact; multiple dams; water temperature.