Effects of a low-head dam and water abstraction on migratory tropical stream biota

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activity, dams, design, downstream migration, entrainment, estuary, fish ladder, hydrology, intake, larvae, low head dams, migration, mitigation, mortality, night, seasonal variation, shrimp, strategy, streams, upstream, upstream migration

Journal or Book Title

Ecological Applications


Migration of large-bodied 'macroconsumers' (e.g., fishes, shrimps, and snails) is an important functional linkage between many tropical rivers and their estuaries. Increasingly, this linkage is being severed by darns and water abstraction. The ecological impacts of these activities are poorly understood and are largely being ignored by dam operators. We investigated the direct effects of a water intake and low-head dam on the migration of amphidromous freshwater shrimps between the headwater streams and estuary of the Rio Espiritu Santo, Puerto Rico, USA. Both downstream migratory drift of larvae and upstream migration of postlarvae had strong diel patterns, with most activity occurring at night. Unlike large dams on the island, this low-head dam did not act as a complete barrier to the upstream migration of metamorphosed postlarvae. However, the dam did cause large numbers of postlarval shrimps to accumulate directly downstream of the structure. Mortality of drifting first-stage larvae by entrainment into the water intake during downstream migration averaged 42% during the 69-d study period. During low discharges, 100% of the drifting larvae were entrained by the intake. The rate of nocturnal entrainment-induced mortality averaged 233 larvae/s and peaked at 1167 larvae/s. We used our field data and a 30-yr discharge record to model the long-term impacts of different intake management strategies on the entrainment mortality at this dam. The simulation model estimated long-term mean daily entrainment mortality at 34-62%, depending on the amount of water extracted from the river. Monthly differences in mean daily entrainment mortality (27-76% depending on estimates of abstraction) were caused by seasonal variation in discharge. Modeling of mitigation options suggested that daily entrainment mortality of larvae could be reduced to 11-20% if water abstraction was halted for 5 h during evening periods of peak drift. Impacts of the dam and operations can be significantly ameliorated by 3-5 h stoppages in water abstraction during peak nocturnal larval drift, upkeep of a functional fish ladder, and maintenance of minimum flow over the dam. Since the impacts of dams depend on the hydrology and design of specific water intake systems, mitigation strategies must be tailored to individual dams and intakes. However, our approach and results are likely to apply to low-head dams throughout the range of amphidromous species. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/1051-0761(1999)009[0656:EOALHD]2.0.CO;2







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