Low flow is a seasonal phenomenon which is a critical requirement for utilization of water resources under rapidly changing environmental conditions. The operation of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) has had a great influence on downstream low flow in the Yangtze River. In this paper, the characteristics of low flow in the main Yangtze River were analyzed during the dry season before and after the TGD operation during the period of 1956–2016. The results show that: (1) the operation of the TGD has changed the spatial and temporal distribution of streamflow in the middle and lower Yangtze River and the annual mean low flow has increased significantly since the TGD operation. (2) The operation of the TGD could advance the date of the start of dry season in the lower Yangtze River basin. The start dates of the dry season in the Yichang, Hankou and Datong stations were advanced by 14 days, 10 days and 9 days, respectively. (3) The minimum streamflow in the lower Yangtze River has increased notably since the TGD operation. The minimum streamflow was raised by 42.91%, 13.76% and 6.06% at the Yichang, Hankou and Datong stations, respectively. The increasing number of dams in the world might have the potential effects on downstream low flow. More attention should be paid to investigating the influence of dam construction on low flow in rivers all over the world.
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