Responses of rivers and river ecosystems to dams are complex and varied, as they depend on local sediment supplies, geomorphic constraints, climate, dam structure and operation, and key attributes of the biota. Therefore, "one-size-fits-all" prescriptions cannot substitute for local knowledge in developing prescriptions for dam structure and operation to protect local biodiversity. One general principle is self-evident: that biodiversity is best protected in rivers where physical regimes are the most natural. A sufficiently natural regime of flow variation is particularly crucial for river biota and food webs. We review our research and that of others to illustrate the ecological importance of alternating periods of low and high flow, of periodic bed scour, and of floodplain inundation and dewatering. These fluctuations regulate both the life cycles of river biota and species interactions in the food webs that sustain them. Even if the focus of biodiversity conservation efforts is on a target species rather tan whole ecosystems, a food web perspective is necessary, because populations of any species depend critically on how their resources, prey, and potential predators also respond to environmental change. In regulated rivers, managers must determine how the frequency, magnitude, and timing of hydrologic events interact to constrain or support species and food webs. Simple ecological modeling, tailored to local systems, may provide a framework and some insight into explaining ecosystem response to dams and should give direction to mitigation efforts.
This paper examines the effects of dam construction and operation in the Columbia River Basin on salmon populations. While the hydrograph of the Columbia River has been significantly impacted by dams, the seasonality of regulated flow on the Snake River has been less affected. The Snake River storage has been used for agricultural diversion while the Columbia has been for electrical generation. The reservoir system has effects on flow velocities, water chemistry (nitrogen supersaturation), habitat availability and reliability, and stream temperatures. Dams block about one third of the Columbia River watershed to access by anadromous fish.
Effects of Dams on Salmon;
Fish kills occur as a result of several characteristics of dams. Bruising, descailing, and stress caused by by-pass facilities; susceptibility to prey following delivery from by-pass to outfall; estuary damage; effects on the homing ability of fish; limited success in fish use of by-pass facilities. The effect of migration speed on smolt survival is uncertain but assumed to have an impact. More research is necessary.
Mitigation of Dam's Effects on Salmon:
Seven measures for mitigation of dams' effects on salmon are discussed
1. Fish passage facilities 2. Predator control 3. Transportation 4. Spill 5. Flow augmentation 6. Reservoir drawdown 7. Dam removal.
The goal of this article is to illustrate a geomorphically based approach to understanding and reducing some of the cataclysmic effects of dams on downstream riverine ecosystems. Additionally, we hope to provoke debate on the merits of different approaches to river conservation. We suggest that geomorphic studies directed at ecologically significant features of river morphology and hydraulics may sometimes be more valuable in short-term evaluations associated with the environmental assessment of new dams or the relicensing of existing dams. We believe that more often than has been realized, geomorphological changes are the key to understanding the long-term ecological consequences of dams and other stream disturbances. We also have some reservations about the efficacyof biological research in short-term studies to lead to successful management plans. The biological research necessary to develop a management plans is substantial--often a multiyear undertaking--and may not lead to a clear understanding of improtant features affecting the ecosystem.
The Mississippi River is the hardest working river in America: a central artery for commerce, a stormwater management system for the two-thirds of the nation, the central flyway for 40% of the nation's migratory waterfowl. Each of the river's distinct forms of habitat is disappearing: backwater marshes dominated by emergent plants are filling in or, alternatively, becoming open, lifeless turbid waters; floodplain lakes have filled with silt; aquatic plants are not replaced because perpetually turbid waters block light penetration; sediment buries mussel beds and deepwater pools' islands erode, eliminating mast-producing forests. High water tables undermine floodplain forests, which lack higher ground to replace themselves. Restrictions of fish movement by the dams makes the decline of habitat in a particular pool more significant by blocking fish access to habitats in another pool. These problems are exacerbated by current river uses, and by past and present land uses that have altered basinwide hydrology and accelerated the rate at which sediment enters the river. Sediments and nutrients enter the river at unsustainable rates due to past and present land use practices that increase erosion and eliminate wetlands and stream-side buffers. Commercial and recreational vessels resuspend sediments in the water column, blocking light penetration and contributing to the loss of backwaters. Even in its reduced for, the Upper Mississippi represents the last piece of Midwestern America's Great Rivers, supporting migrating waterfowl, endangered mussel species and the most ancient lineage of fish in North America. Whether this system continues to survive and flourish depends on whether dynamic river forces can be sufficiently restored to make the river system self-sustaining. Preserving and restoring the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers requires three types of actions: 1. Recreate dynamic river forces to achieve self-sustaining habitat restoration 2. Minimize the operational impacts of the navigation system 3. Achieve no net increase in sediment by 2010
Faber, Scott, American Rivers
excerpts of executive summary used as abstract.