Dr Yongqiang Zong, PhD (Durham)
My principal areas of research include coastal evolution, sea-level change, monsoon climate change, coastal hazards, and human impacts on coastal environment. To aid my research of coastal evolution, I have developed and applied microfossil techniques to the interpretation of present-day and fossil sediments and environments. I am also equipped with skills in Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing. Geographically, I have studied postglacial sea-level changes in both high and low latitudes and both active and passive coasts. My research is interdisciplinary, involving collaboration with geographers, geologists, coastal engineers and managers.
Coastal Evolution of Large Estuaries and Deltas
Coasts are where land and sea meets. Coastal evolution in a given estuary during late Quaternary has been largely determined by a number of variables, including relative sea-level change, freshwater and sediment discharges, and tectonic movement.
- My first research focus is on the China coast. Because of the tectonically stable nature of this coast it is ideal for the registration of climate-driven sea-level changes. My research has made a major contribution by determining that the China coast has responded in a regionally consistent manner to variations in sea level and climate during the last 10,000 years in the Pearl River Delta and the Han River delta (Zong 1987b, 1988, 1989; Huang and Zong 1982, 1983, 1987). An important outcome from this work was the development of a robust model of coastal change within the region (Zong 1992).
- The second focus is in Morecambe Bay, a large estuary in NW England. As in China, the region was selected as it is one of the few areas in the UK which not significantly affected by land uplift or subsidence as a result of ice loading/unloading. It is therefore particularly sensitive to climate-driven changes in sea level (Zong and Tooley 1996). The sensitivity of Morecambe Bay to ocean volume changes has made it ideal for demonstrating the link between recent climate variations and sea-level changes (Zong 1998).
- Recently, I have started research projects in large estuaries-deltas in East and Southeast Asia. The evolution of these estuaries-deltas is controlled by both sea-level change and monsoon climate. I have firstly reconstructed the Holocene sea-level history for the east and south coasts of China (Zong 2004).
- My next investigation will be into the sea-level history between 12,000 and 7000 years BP, a period of rapid rising sea level and the onset of large delta development. At the same time, I have started investigation into the history of postglacial monsoon climate by examining sedimentary records of precipitation and freshwater/sediment flux.
Postglacial Monsoon Climate Variability
In order to develop a robust model for coastal evolution in large estuaries and deltas, the influence of freshwater and sediment flux to the development of estuaries and deltas has to be established.
- With other colleagues, I have employed organic carbon isotopic techniques and microfossil methods to investigate the variability of freshwater flux into the Pearl Estuary during the Holocene (Zong et al., submitted). This work is yielding important new understanding regarding changes in atmospheric circulation in these monsoonal regions during a time period of important cultural and economical development. Evidence have shown a decrease in freshwater flux since the Mid-Holocene Optimum.
- In the next couple of years, this will be my main focus of research.
An important thread linking the research of climate change and natural hazards is the application of knowledge about the past to predict what may happen in the future. In particular, there is growing certainty that global warming, sea-level rise and an increase in storm incidence will pose serious threats to human society in coastal areas throughout the world.
- My particular contributions in this research field have been that examination of typhoons in Asia (Zong and Chen 1999) and storm frequencies and paths in the UK (Zong and Tooley, 2003).
- Global temperature rise over the last few centuries has resulted in a rapid increase in typhoon frequency and hazard along the Pacific coast of Asia (Zong and Chen 1999; Chen and Zong 1998) and in monsoon intensity and flood frequency (Zong and Chen 2000), whilst land reclamation and other human activities have aggravated the situation (Chen and Zong 1999, 2001).
- Flood risk and potential economic losses are assessed and estimated using advanced modelling technologies and Geographical Information Systems (Zong et al. 1995).
- The application of GIS to risk assessment has aided insurance industry and environmental agencies in their decision making, both in Asia (Huang et al. 2004) and in the UK (Zong 2001; Zong and Tooley 1997), as well as assessing tsunami hazards vulnerability in Greece (Papathoma et al. 2003).
- Other coastal hazards, such as earthquakes induced tsunamis and ground movement, are equally devastating to human societies. A recent research was conducted on the southeast coast of Alaska, USA. This area lies on a tectonically active plate boundary and my research has sought to better understand the pattern of land and sea-level changes associated with past earthquake activity. The microfossil techniques which I have developed (see below) has been applied to derive high-precision records of sea-level change before, during and after the 1964 earthquake that rocked the Alaskan coast (Zong et al. 2003a).
Development of research techniques
I have made important contributions to the development of microfossil analytical techniques for sea-level studies. Although the use of diatom analysis in sea-level studies is not new, conventionally diatom data have been used in a descriptive manner with little understanding of the environmental controls on diatom ecology.
- My research in this area has combined a detailed interest in the ecology of key taxa, such as the cosmopolitan Paralia sulcata (Zong 1997a), together with the collection and statistical analysis of contemporary samples from salt marshes throughout the UK and abroad (Zong and Kamaludin 2004, Zong 1997b, 1992).
- The application of this knowledge in developing quantifiable reconstructions of former sea level represents a major new area of research which is set to radically alter the way in which diatom (and other coastal microfossil) data will be interpreted in sea-level studies (Zong and Horton 1999).
- The approach is particularly well suited to the analysis of high-resolution sea-level and climate changes (Zong 1997b, 1998), as well as to the identification of storm surges on passive coastal margins (Zong and Tooley 1999) and tsunamis on active coastal margins (Zong et al. 2003a).
Much of my research has an applied aspect, and my research has been used to inform policy makers.
- Potentials of remobilisation of radionuclide contaminated sediments along the NW coast of England for The National Radiological Protection Board (see Zong and Tooley 1995; Huntley et al. 1996, 1998; Wilkins et al. 1999).
- Other research results have been used by DEFRA and Environmental Agency (Zong 2001), as well as UK insurance industry (Tooley and Zong 1993; Zong 1995; Zong et al. 1995; Zong and Tooley 2003) to improve understanding of flooding and preventive measures.
- I worked with my colleagues in China in informing the central and local governments on the problems of freshwater shortage and coastal hazards in the Yangtze delta area (Chen and Zong 1999; Zong and Chen 1999; Chen et al. 2001; Huang et al. 2004).
- Recently, I have worked on research projects funded by the Environment Agency, UK to investigate the history of metal and non-metal contaminants in the Tees Estuary, and the Halcrow Ltd to reconstruct the evolutional history of the Esk-Mite-Irt estuaries (Cumbria, UK) and their barrier systems.
- Asian Monsoon climate variability
- Monsoon climate, sea-level change and major cultural changes in the Yangtze lowlands, China
- Climate change and monsoon variability
- Diatom microfossil techniques
- Natural hazards and human societies
- Sea-level change and coastal evolution
Journal papers: academic
- Zong, Y., Chen, Z., Innes, J.B., Chen, C., Wang, Z. & Wang, H. Fire and flood management of coastal swamp enabled first rice paddy cultivation in east China. Nature. 2007;449:459-463.
- Zong, Y., Chen, Z., Innes, J.B., Chen, C., Wang, Z. & Wang, H. Fire and flood management of coastal swamp enabled first rice paddy cultivaton in east China. Nature. 2007;449:459-663.
- Zong, Y., Lloyd, J.M., Leng, M.J., Yim, W.W-S. & Huang, G. Reconstruction of Holocene monsoon history from the Pearl River Estuary, southern China, using diatoms and carbon isotope ratios. The Holocene. 2006;16:251-263.
- Huang, Z., Zong, Y. & Zhang, W. Coastal Inundation due to Sea Level Rise in the Pearl River Delta, China. Natural Hazards. 2004;33:247-264.
- Zong, Y. & Kamaludin, B.H. Diatom assemblages from two mangrove tidal flats in Peninsular Malaysia. Diatom Research. 2004;19:329-344.
- Zong, Y. Mid-Holocene sea-level highstand along the Southeast Coast of China. Quaternary International. 2004;117:55-67.
- Zong, Y. & Tooley, M.J. A Historical Record of Coastal Floods in Britain: Frequencies and Associated Storm Tracks. Natural Hazards. 2003;29:13-36.
- Papathoma, M., Dominey-Howes, D., Zong, Y. & Smith, D. Assessing tsunami vulnerability, an example from Herakleio, Crete. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. 2003;3:377-389.
- Zong, Y., Shennan, I., Combellick, R.A., Hamilton, S.L. & Rutherford, M.M. Microfossil evidence for land movements associated with the AD 1964 Alaska earthquake. The Holocene. 2003;13:7-20.
- Chen, X., Zong, Y., Zhang, E., Xu, J. & Li, S. Human impacts on the Changjiang (Yangtze) River Basin, China, with special reference to the impacts on dry season water discharges into the sea. Geomorphology. 2001;41:111-123.
- Plater, A.J., Horton, B.P., Haworth, E.Y., Appleby, P.G., Zong, Y., Wright, M.R. & Rutherford, M.M. Holocene tidal levels and sedimentation rates using a diatom-based palaeo-environmental reconstructure: the Tees estuary, northwestern England. The Holocene. 2000;10:441-452.
- Zong, Y. & Chen, X. The 1998 flood on the Yangtze. Natural Hazards. 2000;22:165-184.
- Zong, Y. & Horton, B. Diatom-based tidal level transfer function and its applications to palaeo-sea-level reconstruction. Journal of Quarternary Science. 1999;14:153-167.
- Zong, Y. & Tooley, M.J. Evidence of mid-Holocene storm-surge deposits from Morecambe Bay, northwest England: a biostratigarphical approach. Quaternary International. 1999;55:42-50.
- Chen, X. & Zong, Y. Impacts of sea-level rise on agriculture in the Shanghai area, China. Applied Geography. 1999;9.
- Shennan, I., Scott, D., Rutherford, M.M. & Zong, Y. Microfossil analysis of sediments representing the 1964 earthquake, exposed at Girdwood Flats, Alaska. Quaternary International. 1999;60:55-73.
- Wilkins, B.T., Green, M., Haslam, I.K., Huntley, D.A., Dyer, K.R., Carrot, D., Tooley, M.J. & Zong, Y. Potential incursion of marine sediment inland during storms: the radiological importance of actinides. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. 1999;44:371-388.
- Zong, Y. & Chen, X. Typhoon hazards in the Shanghai area, China. Disasters. 1999;23:66-80.
- Huang, Z., Zong, Y. & Li, P. Applied geomorphological mapping in South China. Z. Geomorph. N.F. 1998;68:71-79.
- Chen, X. & Zong, Y. Coastal erosion along the Changjiang deltaic shoreline, China: a perspective study. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Sciences. 1998;46:733-742.
- Zong, Y. Diatom records and sedimentary responses to sea-level changes during the last 8000 years in Roudsea Wood, North-West England. The Holocene. 1998;8:219-228.
- Zong, Y. & Horton, B.P. Diatom zones acorss intertidal flats and coastal saltmarshes in Britain. Diatom Research. 1998;13:375-394.
- Huntley, D.A., Dyer, K.R., Carrot, D., Tooley, M.J., Zong, Y., Haslam, I.K., Green, N. & Wilkins, B.T. Potential incursion of marine sediment inland in north-west England. Radiation Protection Dosimetry. 1998;75.
- Zong, Y. Implications of Paralia sulcata abundance in Scottish isolation basins. Diatom Research. 1997;12:125-150.
- Zong, Y. Mid- and Late-Holocene sea-level changes in Roudsea Marsh, northwest England: A diatom biostratigraphical investigation. The Holocene. 1997;7:309-321.
- Zong, Y. & Tooley, M.J. Holocene sea-level changes and crustal movements in Morecambe Bay, NW England. Journal of Quarternary Science. 1996;11:43058.
- Shennan, I., Long, A.J., Rutherford, M.M., Green, F.M., Innes, J.B., Lloyd, J.M., Zong, Y. & Walker, K. Tidal marsh stratigraphy, sea-level change and large earthquakes, 1; a 5000 year record in Washington, U.S.A. Quaternary Science Reviews. 1996;15:1-37.
- Zong, Y., Tooley, M.J. & Donoghue, D. Geographical Information Systems and sea flooding risk assessment in the Thames Lowlands. Journal of the Society of Fellows. 1995;9:3.
- Shennan, I., Innes, J.B., Long, A.J. & Zong, Y. Holocene relative sea-level changes at Kentra Moss, Argyll, Northwestern Scotland. Marine Geology. 1995;124:43-59.
- Shennan, I., Innes, J.B., Long, A.J. & Zong, Y. Late Devensian and Holocene relative sea-level changes in northwestern Scotland: New data to test existing models. Quaternary International. 1995;26.
- Shennan, I., Innes, J.B., Long, A.J. & Zong, Y. Late Devensian and Holocene relative sea-level changes at Loch nan Eala, near Arisaig, Northwest Scotland. Journal of Quaternary Science. 1994;9:261-283.
- Donoghue, D., Reid-Thomas, D.C. & Zong, Y. Mapping and monitoring the intertidal zone of the east coast of England using remote sensing techniques and a coastal monitoring GIS. MTS Journal. 1994;28:19-29.
- Shennan, I., Innes, J.B., Long, A.J. & Zong, Y. Late and post glacial sea-level movements in northwest Scotland, UK. Norsk Geologisk Tidsskrift. 1993;73:161-174.
- Shennan, I., Innes, J.B., Long, A.J. & Zong, Y. Late-Glacial and Holocene sea-level changes at Rumach, northwest Scotland. Norsk Geologisk Tidsskrift. 1993;73:161-174.
- Zong, Y. Postglacial stratigraphy and sea-level changes in the Han River Delta, China. Journal of Coastal Research. 1992;8:1-28.
- Zong, Y. On depositional cycles and geomorphological development of the Han River Delta of south China. Z. Geomorph. N.F. 1989;Supplement 73:33-48.
- Tooley, M., Zong, Y. & Innes, J.B. Holocene storm surge signatures. In: Jablonski, N.J. The Changing Face of East Asia During the Tertiary and Quaternary. Hong Kong.: Centre of Asian Studies; 1997:138-149.
- Zong, Y. & Tooley, M.J. Potentials of the application of Geographical Information Systems for assessment of sea flooding risk in the East Asian coastal lowlands. In: Jablonski, N.G. The Changing Face of East Asia During the Tertiary and Quaternary. Centre of Asian Studies; 1997:138-149.
- 2004: The evolution of the coastal barrier of Irt-Mite-Esk estuaries (£14,000 awarded by Halcrow UK, Lloyd and Zong)
- 2003: Sediment dynamics in Seal Sands, the Tees estuary (£50,560 awarded by Environmental Agency UK, Donoghue and Zong)
- 2002: Late Holocene palaeo-seismicity in the Greater Anchorage Area (second stage) ($80,000 awarded by United State Geological Surveys, Shennan, Zong, Long and Horton).
- 2001: Late Holocene palaeo-seismicity in the Greater Anchorage Area ($90,000 awarded by United State Geological Surveys, Shennan, Zong, Long and Horton).
- 2000: Sea-level change in Peninsula Malaysia (£2800 for radiocarbon dating awarded by NERC, Zong and Hassan).
- 1998: Coastal habitat information monitoring system (£24,800 awarded by British National Space Centre, Donoghue and Zong).
- 1997: Earthquakes in Alaska (£15,000 awarded by University of Durham Zong).
- 1996: Typhoon hazards in major coastal cities in the Far East (£3280 awarded by the Royal Society, Zong).
- 1995: Late Holocene sea-level changes and coastal hazards in the Yangtze Delta area (£10,000 awarded by University of Durham, Zong).