Poyang Lake is the largest wintering habitat for migratory birds in Asia. In the last decade, the lake has experienced an early-occurring and prolonged dry season that has deteriorated the lake’s ecological status. To tackle this issue, the Chinese government has proposed the construction of the Poyang Lake Hydraulic Project (PLHP) to regulate water flow to the lake. However, its impact on migratory bird habitats is unknown. In this study, we simulated the habitat suitability for migratory birds in Poyang Lake during wet and dry years, with and without the presence/operation of the hydraulic project. A two-dimensional hydrodynamic model was used to simulate the water conditions for each case. Matter-element theory, 3S technology and ecological knowledge were combined to develop a matter-element-based habitat suitability model in a geographic information system (GIS)-based platform. We assessed and compared the habitat suitability in four scenarios: (1) Wet year without the hydraulic project, (2) wet year with the hydraulic project, (3) dry year without the hydraulic project, and (4) dry year with the hydraulic project. The results showed that the operation of the hydraulic project can effectively alleviate the water shortage issue in the wetland and increase the area of habitats suitable for migratory birds in typical dry years. However, it can reduce the area of suitable habitats in the northern provincial nature reserve of the lake. In addition, a reasonable management of the lake’s fishing activities can also increase habitat suitability and promote balanced patterns between human activities and migratory bird habitats.
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