Researchers teachers and engineers


Geography, United States

Contact details

Department of Geography
Syracuse University, New York

Personal Website.

Research topics


Human-disturbed braided rivers in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) has derived a large amount of braided-rivers in its five main watersheds (Figure on the right). In the southernmost one, the Yarlung Tsangp River, increased anthropogenic activities have imposed profound impacts on river morphology and hydrology, but little is known about these impacts thus far.

This collaborative research project is focusing on two braided reaches in the middle Yarlung Tsangp River that have been disturbed by a variety of human activities including urbanization, cascade damming, land-use changes, and artificial tree planting.
The goal of this project is to detach the impact of human activities from that of climate change on geomorphological functioning of the selected braided reaches. Using remotely sensed images, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-derived high-resolution DEM, daily discharges, and meteorological variables, P. Gao will extract morphological and hydrological indicators for braided river reach evolution driven by human activities and climate change, respectively. It will contribute to development of a new interdisciplinary approach to assess hydrological and geomorphological dynamics in braided rives located in remote regions under the influence of both climate change and anthropogenic disturbance.

Activities / Resume


Pr. Gao is a physical geographer trained in fluvial geomorphology. His research has been involved in hillslope processes (landslide initiation and prediction, rill and gully erosion under overland flows), sediment transport (bed load and suspended sediment load) in river channels and agricultural drainage system, watershed modeling for hydrological and sediment-transport processes, as well as morphological structure of longitudinal profiles of mountain rivers.
Since 2015, his research interest has been focusing on two broad areas:
  1. River dynamics and environment changes
  2. Geospatial-based urban studies.


  • 2022 You, Y.C., Li, Z.W., Gao, P*., and Hu, T.S. Impacts of dams and land-use changes on hydromorphology of braided channels in the Lhasa River of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. International Journal of Sediment Research, 37, 214-228.
  • 2022 Li, Z.W., Gao, P*., and Wu, X.Y. Processes of neck cutoff and channel adjustment affected by seeding herbaceous vegetation and variable discharges. Catena, 208, 1056731.
  • 2021 Gao, P, Gao, W., and Nan, K. Assessing the impact of flood inundation dynamics on an urban environment. Natural Hazards, 149, 1047-1072
  • 2021 Gao, P, Li, Z.W., and Yang, H.Y. Variable discharges control composite bank erosion in Zoige meandering rivers. Catena,
  • 2021 Guo, X.W., Gao, P. and Li, Z.W., Morphological characteristics and changes of two meandering rivers in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Geomorphology, 379, 107626
  • 2020 Li, Z. Lu, H., Gao, P., You, Y., and Hu, X., Characterizing braided rivers in two nested watersheds in the Source Region of the Yangtze River on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Geomorphology, 351, 10695.
  • 2020 Zhu, H.L., Gao, P., Li, Z.W., Fu, J.T., Li, G.R., Liu, Y.B., Li, X.L., Hu, X.S.,. Impacts of the Degraded Alpine Swamp Meadow on Tensile Strength of Riverbank: A Case Study of the Upper Yellow River. Water, 12, 2348; doi:10.3390/w12092348.
  • 2020 LI, Z. and Gao, P, Characterizing spatially variable water table depths in a disturbed Zoige peatland watershed, Journal of Hydro-environment Research, 29, 70-79.
  • 2019 Gao, P., Cooper, J., and Wainwright, J., Toward understanding complexity of sediment dynamics in geomorphic systems, Geomorphology, 330, 129-132.
  • 2019 Li, Z., Gao, P., Hu, X., Yi, Y., Pan, B., and You, Y., Coupled impact of decadal precipitation and evapotranspiration on peatland degradation in the Zoige basin, China, Physical Geography, DOI: 10.1080/02723646.2019.1620579.
  • 2019 Li, Z., Gao, P., and Lu, H., Dynamic changes of groundwater storage and flows in a disturbed alpine peatland under variable climatic conditions, Journal of Hydrology, 575, 557-568.
  • 2019 Li, Z. and Gao, P., Impact of natural gullies on groundwater hydrology in the Zoige peatland, China, Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 21, 25-39.
  • 2019 Li, Z., Wu, X., and Gao, P., Experimental study on the process of neck cutoff and channel adjustment in a highly sinuous meander under constant discharges, Geomorphology, 327, 215-229.
  • 2019 Li, Z. and Gao, P., Channel adjustment after artificial neck cutoffs in a meandering river of the Zoige basin within the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China, Catena, 172, 255-265.
  • 2018 Li, Z., Gao, P., You, Y., Characterizing hydrological connectivity of artificial ditches in Zoige peatlands of Qinghai-Tibet plateau, Water, 10, 1364.
  • 2018 Wu, X., Li, Z., Gao, P., Cao, H., Hu, T., Response of the downstream Braided Channel to Zhikong Reservoir on Lhasa River, Water, 10, 1144; doi:10.3390/w10091144.
  • 2018 Bao, Y., He, X, Wen, A. Gao, P.*, Tang, Q., Yana, D., Long, Y., Dynamic changes of soil erosion in a typical disturbance zone of China’s Three Gorges Reservoir, Catena, 169, 128-139 (*corresponding author).
  • 2016 Gao, P. and Zhang, Z.R., Spatial patterns of sediment dynamics within a medium-sized watershed over an extreme storm event, Geomorphology, 267, 25-36.
  • 2016 Gao, P. and Hartnett, J.J., Exploring the Causes of an Extreme Flood Event in Central New York, USA. Physical Geography, 37(1), 38-55.
  • 2016 Gao, P. and Zhang, L., Determining spurious correlation between two variables with common elements: event area-weighted suspended sediment yield and event mean runoff depth. The Professional Geographer, 68(2), 261-270 DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2015.1065548.
  • 2015 Wainwright, J., Parsons, A.J., Cooper, J.R., Gao, P., Gillies, J.A., and Mao, L. The concept of transport capacity and its use in different geomorphic process domains. Reviews of Geophysics, 53, doi:10.1002/2014RG000474.
  • 2015 Gao, P. Wang, Z-Y, and Siegel, D. Spatial and temporal changes of sedimentation in Three Gorges Reservoir of China. Lakes & Reservoirs: Research & Management 20, 1-10.
  • 2015 Gao, P., Borah, D., and Yi, C., Storm Event Flow and Sediment Simulations in a Central New York Watershed: Model Testing and Parameter Analyses. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers 58(5), 1241-1252.
  • 2015 Bao, Y.H., Gao, P.*, and He, X.B., The water-level fluctuation zone of Three Gorges Reservoir — A unique geomorphological unit. Earth-Science Reviews, 150, 14-24. (* corresponding author).
  • 2014 Tang, Q., Bao, Y., He, X., Zhou, X., Cao, Z., Gao, P., Zhong, R., Hu, Y., Zhang, X., Sedimentation and associated trace metal enrichment in the riparian zone of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Science of the Total Environment, 479-480, 258-266.
  • 2013 Gao P., Nearing, M., and Commons, M. Suspended sediment transport at the instantaneous and event time scales in semi-arid watersheds of southeastern Arizona, USA. Water Resources Research, 49, 1-14, doi: 10.1002/wrcr.20549.
  • 2013 Gao P., Borah, D.K., and Josefson, M. Evaluation of the storm event model DWSM on a medium-sized watershed in central New York, USA. Journal of Urban and Environmental Engineering, 7: 1-7.
  • 2013 Gao P. Rill and Gully Development Processes. In: John F. Shroder (ed.) Treatise on Geomorphology, Volume 7, pp. 122-131. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • 2012 Gao, P. Validation and implications of an energy-based bedload transport equation. Sedimentology, 59, 1926-1935.
  • 2012 Gao, P. and Chen, C. Investigating the Periodicities of Step-Pool Sequences in Alluvial Mountain Streams. Geographic Analysis, 44, 258-277.
  • 2012 Gao, P. and Josefson, M. Temporal variations of suspended sediment transport in Oneida Creek watershed, Central New York. Journal of Hydrology, 426-427, 17-27.
  • 2012 Gao, P., Puckett, J. A new approach for linking event-based upland sediment sources to downstream suspended sediment transport. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 37, 169-179 DOI: 10.1002/esp.2229.
  • 2012 Gao, P. and Josefson, M. Event-based suspended sediment dynamics in a central New York watershed. Geomorphology, 139-140, 425-473 doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2011.11.007.
  • 2011 Gao, P. An equation for bed-load transport capacities in gravel-bed rivers. Journal of Hydrology, 402, 297-305.