Ecosystem level assessment of environmentally based flow restrictions for maintaining ecosystem integrity: a comparison of a modified peaking versus unaltered river

Authors

  • K. E. Smokorowski,

    Corresponding author
    1. Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 1219 Queen St. E, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 2E5, Canada
    • Community Production Scientist, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 1219 Queen St. E, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 2E5, Canada.
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  • R. A. Metcalfe,

    1. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Aquatic Research and Development Section, c/o Trent University, DNA Building, 2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 7B8
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  • S. D. Finucan,

    1. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, North East Science and Information, Ontario Government Complex, Hwy 101 East, P.O. Bag 3020, South Porcupine, ON., P0N 1H0
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  • N. Jones,

    1. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, River and Stream Ecology Lab, c/o Trent University, DNA Building, 2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 7B8
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  • J. Marty,

    1. St. Lawrence River Institute, 2 Belmont Street Cornwall, ON K6H 4Z1
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  • M. Power,

    1. Biology Department, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario Canada, N2L 3G1
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  • R. S. Pyrce,

    1. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, North East Science and Information, Ontario Government Complex, Hwy 101 East, P.O. Bag 3020, South Porcupine, ON., P0N 1H0
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  • R. Steele

    1. Natural Resource Solutions Inc., representing Brookfield Renewable Power Inc., 225 Labrador Drive, Unit 1 Waterloo, Ontario, N2K 4M8
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Abstract

Although dams have impounded the majority of the world's altered watercourses, there is a growing awareness of the importance of mitigating or reversing some of the negative effects on aquatic ecosystems and the related services they provide. We used an ecosystem approach, including detailed studies on hydrology, geomorphology, invertebrates, fish, and food web dynamics on a river altered by waterpower production and a natural flowing river to assess system responses to a change in the altered flow regime (specifically the ramping rate or rate of change of flow). Although there was significant alteration in the flow and sediment regimes under the original restricted ramping rate regime, differences in many biotic variables in the two rivers were not significant including total invertebrate abundance and diversity, fish biomass, fish condition, and food web length. However, significant differences in the abundance and distribution of some sensitive invertebrate taxa and fish diversity were observed between the altered and natural flowing rivers as was the energy base of the food web, measured with stable isotopes. The altered river had lower overall abundance of Odonata, Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera, and Diptera, Trichoptera, Ephemeroptera, and Coleoptera increase in abundance towards the deeper and higher velocity thalweg. On average, δ13C values were lighter in altered sites compared to unaltered sites, likely due to carbon export from the upstream reservoir. Results will inform Canadian federal and provincial policy concerning the efficacy of ramping rate restrictions as a tool to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with peaking waterpower dam operations. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. and Crown in the right of Canada

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