The Yangtze (Changjiang) river-floodplain is one of the most important ecosystems in China and the world, but is seriously threatened by multiple stresses. Thus, it is crucial and urgent to rehabilitate and conserve the river-floodplain. This paper reviews ecological studies conducted on the Yangtze river-floodplain, and presents suggestions for conservation and rehabilitation. First, basic concepts and research advances of riverscape and hydrological connectivity are introduced. Second, the history and current status of the Yangtze River system are summarized. Before 23 Ma, the Yangtze River cut through the Three Gorges, forming the river much like the modern one. Numerous rivers, streams, lakes (the total area 15770 km2
at present) and wetlands are distributed in the mid-lower Yangtze river-floodplain. Such a river-lake complex ecosystem holds a unique and diverse biota, and is the most important fishery area of China. Third, main threats to the Yangtze river-floodplain ecosystem are identified, i.e., a) habitat loss, including river channelization, sharp shrinkage of lake area (ca. 10000 km2
since the 1950s), degradation of lakeshore zones and sand over-mining; b) alternations of hydrological regimes, including construction of ca. 47000 reservoirs and disconnection of most lakes from the mainstem; c) water pollution, including eutrophication, heavy metals, organic pollutants and microplastic; d) overexploitation of biological resources, including overfishing and intensive pen culture. Fourth, effects of river-lake disconnection on lake ecosystems are summarized. It was found that a) disconnection is one of the main causes of lake eutrophication; b) species diversity, biomass, production of macrophytes and macrobenthos reach maxima at some levels of intermediate river connectivity; c) disconnection greatly reduces fish species richness of each habitat guild, and natural fish larvae is severely depleted; d) disconnection simplifies macroinvertebrate food web structure, and trophic basis is more heavily relied on detritus in disconnected lakes. Last, conservation strategies are proposed. Since the Yangtze river-floodplain is a huge integrated system, the biodiversity conservation must be conducted on the whole basin scale. By establishing species-area models of fishes, the minimum protected area of Yangtze-connected lakes is estimated to be ca. 14400 km2
. It means that at least 8900 km2
of disconnected lakes should be reconnected with the Yangtze mainstem, and ecohydrological operation of dams and sluices is the feasible approach. Based upon our studies on environmental flow requirements, the following measures are suggested: a) lower water levels during spring to improve germination of macrophytes, and control rising rates of water levels during spring-summer to ensure development of macrophytes; b) open sluice gates to restore migration routes for juveniles migrating into lakes during April-September, and for adults migrating back to the Yangtze mainstem during November-December.