Faculty Profile
  CAO Lei
Department: Key laboratory of environmental biotechnology, RCEES, CAS
Mailing Address:
Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100085, People’s Republic of China
Postal Code:

Research Profile

Dr. Cao Lei, professor and Ph.D. supervisor at the University of Science and Technology of China. Since 2004 Professor Cao has developed a great interest in the serious environmental problems occurring in the Yangtze River floodplain wetlands and her research work is now focused on understanding the causes of these and their impact on waterbirds. 
The Yangtze River is globally unique for its extensive ephemeral floodplain wetlands, recharged by summer monsoonal rains laden with nutrients and sediment. Autumn and winter water level recession creates one of the largest concentrations of marshland, shallow and seasonally flooded lakes in the world, wetland ecosystems of dramatic diversity and productivity.  The cycle of flooding and drying provides ecosystem services of enormous economic value to hundreds of millions of people in the form of flood alleviation, water supply and storage, food supply (especially fisheries and aquaculture), transport, aggregate and other mineral resources.  The wetlands support globally significant numbers of millions of wintering waterbirds, including several species unique to the area, many of which are suffering serious declines in number in the face of rapid environmental change.  Waterbird community and composition reflect the structure and function of the wetlands upon which they depend, making them vital indicators of wetland ecological health. 
Monitoring is helping to establish the status, abundance and distribution of Yangtze waterbirds, thus identifying key research areas. Professor Cao’s current research focuses on understanding the feeding ecology and habitat use of flagship and key common species, which appear to have experienced changes in distribution or abundance due to environmental changes in the floodplain (such as the Swan Goose, Tundra Swan, Lesser and Greater White-fronted Geese, both races of Bean Geese, Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal), to better understand their conservation management requirements.  Innovative use of satellite imagery is being used to measure major expansion in the distribution and abundance of key macrophyte species, which may reflect recent changes in water quality and hydrology.  Such studies have been supplemented with microcosm experiments which are being used to better understand the trophic effects of the spread and current distribution of macrophytes on the functioning of Yangtze wetlands.  Such insights into ecosystem function and processes are vital if the ecosystem services so essential to the human population of the area are to be safeguarded for the future.
Professor Cao is currently undertaking or presiding over a number of research projects sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the Major Projects of Knowledge Innovation Program of CAS, and other international cooperative projects.
Selected Publications
1) Food constraints explain the restricted distribution of wintering Lesser White-fronted Geese Anser erythropus in China , Ibis , 2013 , doi: 10.1111/ibi.12039
2) Within-winter shifts in Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus distribution at East Dongting Lake, China , Ardea , 2012 , 100 (1): 5-11
3) A systematic scheme for monitoring waterbird populations at Shengjin Lake, , China: methodology and preliminary results , Chinese Birds , 2011 , 2(1)
4)  Effects of length of growing season on biomass accumulation and reproductive investment of Vallisneria natans (Lour.) H. Hara seedlings , Fundamental and Applied Limnology , 2011 , 179(2):115-120
5) Changes in the distribution and abundance of wintering Lesser White-fronted Geese Anser erythropus in eastern China , Bird Conservation International , 2012 , 22(2):128-134
6) Serious contractions in wintering distribution and decline in abundance of Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri. , Bird Conservation International , 2012 , 22(2):121-127
7) Comparing the Community Composition of European and Eastern Chinese Waterbirds and the Influence of Human Factors on the China Waterbird Community , Ambio , 2011 , 40
8) Declines in the tuber-feeding waterbird guild at Shengjin Lake National Nature Reserve – a barometer of submerged macrophyte collapse , Aquatic Conservation , 2010 , 10.1002
9) Changing distribution and abundance of Swan Goose Anser cygnoides in the Yangtze River floodplain: the likely loss of a very important wintering site , Bird Conservation International , 2011 , 20
10) Functional use of Shengjin Hu National Nature Reserve (Anhui, China) by three species of dabbling ducks – preliminary observations , Wildfowl , 2010 , 60
11) Recent changes in the distribution and abundance of Tundra Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii in the Yangtze River floodplain. , Bird Conservation International , 2011 , 21:260–265.
12) Changes in within-winter distribution and diet of wintering Tundra Bean Geese Anser fabalis serrirostris at Shengjin Lake, Yangtze floodplain, China , Wildfowl , 2010 , 60
13) Anatidae in eastern China during the non-breeding season: geographical distributions and protection status. , Biological Conservation , 2010 , 143
14) A comparison of the behaviour and habitat use by Bewick’s Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at wintering sites in China and Europe: preliminary observations , Wildfowl , 2011 , 61:52-73
15) Changing distribution and abundance of Swan Goose Anser cygnoides in the Yangtze River floodplain: the likely loss of a very important wintering site. , Bird Conservation International , 2010 , 20
16) Parental care, foraging skills development and transition to independence in Red-footed Boobies. , The Condor , 2010 , 112(1)
17) The first reported case of Cooperative Polyandry in the Red-footed Booby: Trio Relationships and Benefits. , The Wilson Journal of Ornithology , 2010 , 122(2)
18) Birds and people both depend on China's wetlands. , Nature , 2009 , 460(7252)
19) Importance of east China for shorebirds during the non-breeding season , The Emu , 2009 , 109(2)
20) New Anatidae population estimates for eastern China: implications for flyway population sizes. , Biological Conservation , 2008 , 141
21) Status of the East Asian population of the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus: the need for urgent conservation action. , Bird Conservation International , 2008 , 18(2)
22) The Saunders’s Gull: a new population estimate. , Bird Conservation International , 2008 , 18(4)
23) Anatidae in the Yangtze floodplain in Winter 2004 and 2005. , Casarca , 2008 , 11(2)
24) Wintering Anatidae in China –A Preliminary Analysis. , Casarca , 2008 , 11(2)
25) The Declining Importance of the Fujian Coast, China, for Wintering Waterbirds. , Waterbirds , 2008 , 31(3)
26) The functional use of East Dongting Lake, China, by wintering geese. , Wildfowl , 2008 , 58
27) Preliminary observations of diurnal feeding patterns of Swan Geese Anser cygnoides using two different habitats at Shengjin Lake, Anhui Province, China. , Wildfowl , 2008 , 58
28) Waterbirds of the Xisha Archipelago, South China Sea. , Waterbirds , 2007 , 30(2)
29) Status of the Red-footed Booby on the Xisha Archipelago, South China Sea. , Waterbirds , 2005 , 28(4)
30) Results of a survey for waterbirds in the lower Yangtze floodplain, China, in January–February 2004. , Forktail , 2005 , 21
31) Northward Shorebird Migration Survey in 2005 at Four New Yellow Sea Sites in Jiangsu and Liaoning Provinces , The Stilt , 2005 , 48
32) Observations of Ashy Starling in autumn and early winter in Hefei , Journal of Lanzhou university (Natural Sciences) , 2004 , 40
33) Observations of Breeding Population of Great Frigatebirds (Fregata minor) on Dong Island of Xisha Archipelago , Zoological Research , 2003 , 24
34) Observations on the breeding habits of Green-backed Herons (Butorides striatus) , Zoological Research , 2002 , 23
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