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Keywords:

  • diversion hydropower;
  • fish community;
  • native species;
  • Laja River;
  • Chile

Abstract

  • 1.
    Chilean rivers have a large potential for hydropower development, and they also contain a unique native fish fauna with a high level of endemism. Several diversion hydropower plants have recently been constructed in Chile; however, the response of fish communities to these new hydropower plant designs is not well known.
  • 2.
    Responses of native and non-native fish to the construction and operation of a new hydropower plant that diverts water from two rivers were quantified. The Laja River is highly regulated and manipulated with three older (40 yr) dam-based hydropower plants and irrigation diversions located upstream from the new facility. In contrast, the Rucúe River has no other hydropower facilities and is comparatively undisturbed.
  • 3.
    Prior to construction, the Laja River had a fish community with lower species richness compared with the Rucúe River. The fish community structure in the Laja River was dramatically altered after the new hydropower facility began operation. On the other hand, in the Rucúe River, even though abundance of fish declined, there was less of a change in the total fish community structure. The fish community in the Rucúe River exhibited greater resistance to change compared with the Laja River.
  • 4.
    The species most affected were the introduced salmonids and an endangered native species Percilia irwini.
  • 5.
    Although diversion hydropower designs may have less impact than traditional dam-based hydropower facilities, results of this study indicate that diversion hydropower structures can cause large changes in the fish community.

Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.