The Application of Traits-Based Assessment Approaches to Estimate the Effects of Hydroelectric Turbine Passage on Fish Populations

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One of the most important environmental issues facing the hydropower industry is the adverse impact of hydroelectric projects on downstream fish passage. Fish that migrate long distances as part of their life cycle include not only important diadromous species (such as salmon, shads, and eels) but also strictly freshwater species. The hydropower reservoirs that downstream-moving fish encounter differ greatly from free-flowing rivers. Many of the environmental changes that occur in a reservoir (altered water temperature and transparency, decreased flow velocities, increased predation) can reduce survival. Upon reaching the dam, downstream-migrating fish may suffer increased mortality as they pass through the ... continued below

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Cada, Glenn F & Schweizer, Peter E April 1, 2012.

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One of the most important environmental issues facing the hydropower industry is the adverse impact of hydroelectric projects on downstream fish passage. Fish that migrate long distances as part of their life cycle include not only important diadromous species (such as salmon, shads, and eels) but also strictly freshwater species. The hydropower reservoirs that downstream-moving fish encounter differ greatly from free-flowing rivers. Many of the environmental changes that occur in a reservoir (altered water temperature and transparency, decreased flow velocities, increased predation) can reduce survival. Upon reaching the dam, downstream-migrating fish may suffer increased mortality as they pass through the turbines, spillways and other bypasses, or turbulent tailraces. Downstream from the dam, insufficient environmental flow releases may slow downstream fish passage rates or decrease survival. There is a need to refine our understanding of the relative importance of causative factors that contribute to turbine passage mortality (e.g., strike, pressure changes, turbulence) so that turbine design efforts can focus on mitigating the most damaging components. Further, present knowledge of the effectiveness of turbine improvements is based on studies of only a few species (mainly salmon and American shad). These data may not be representative of turbine passage effects for the hundreds of other fish species that are susceptible to downstream passage at hydroelectric projects. For example, there are over 900 species of fish in the United States. In Brazil there are an estimated 3,000 freshwater fish species, of which 30% are believed to be migratory (Viana et al. 2011). Worldwide, there are some 14,000 freshwater fish species (Magurran 2009), of which significant numbers are susceptible to hydropower impacts. By comparison, in a compilation of fish entrainment and turbine survival studies from over 100 hydroelectric projects in the United States, Winchell et al. (2000) found useful turbine passage survival data for only 30 species. Tests of advanced hydropower turbines have been limited to seven species - Chinook and coho salmon, rainbow trout, alewife, eel, smallmouth bass, and white sturgeon. We are investigating possible approaches for extending experimental results from the few tested fish species to predict turbine passage survival of other, untested species (Cada and Richmond 2011). In this report, we define the causes of injury and mortality to fish tested in laboratory and field studies, based on fish body shape and size, internal and external morphology, and physiology. We have begun to group the large numbers of unstudied species into a small number of categories, e.g., based on phylogenetic relationships or ecological similarities (guilds), so that subsequent studies of a few representative species (potentially including species-specific Biological Index Testing) would yield useful information about the overall fish community. This initial effort focused on modifying approaches that are used in the environmental toxicology field to estimate the toxicity of substances to untested species. Such techniques as the development of species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) and Interspecies Correlation Estimation (ICE) models rely on a considerable amount of data to establish the species-toxicity relationships that can be extended to other organisms. There are far fewer studies of turbine passage stresses from which to derive the turbine passage equivalent of LC{sub 50} values. Whereas the SSD and ICE approaches are useful analogues to predicting turbine passage injury and mortality, too few data are available to support their application without some form of modification or simplification. In this report we explore the potential application of a newer, related technique, the Traits-Based Assessment (TBA), to the prediction of downstream passage mortality at hydropower projects.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2012/110
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/1038082 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1038082
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc833532

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  • April 1, 2012

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • June 9, 2016, 9:17 p.m.

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Cada, Glenn F & Schweizer, Peter E. The Application of Traits-Based Assessment Approaches to Estimate the Effects of Hydroelectric Turbine Passage on Fish Populations, report, April 1, 2012; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc833532/: accessed December 12, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.