Senescent Reservoirs and Ecological Restoration: An Overdue Reality Check

Authors

  • John Cairns Jr.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology and University Center for Environmental and Hazardous Materials Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1020 Derring Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0415, U.S.A.
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  • Sarah E. Palmer

    1. Department of Biology and University Center for Environmental and Hazardous Materials Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1020 Derring Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0415, U.S.A.
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    • 2

      University of Arizona, Life Sciences South, Tucson, AZ 85721, U.S.A.


John Cairns, Jr.

Abstract

The recent publication of Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems: Science, Technology, and Public Policy has generated much scientific, public, and political discussion. Although the book emphasizes the restoration of entire aquatic ecosystems, discussion of senescent dams and human-made reservoirs is absent. The important societal and ecological roles of reservoirs warrant a closer examination of the potential ecological restoration of aging reservoirs. Problems with long-term reservoir management include lack of long-term management strategies, sedimentation, hazardous waste accumulation, impacts of recreational use, and the creation of new aquatic and riparian habitats. Policy conflicts may arise when habitats created in the reservoir are destroyed to restore the downstream habitats or when created habitats upstream undergo successional changes that impact the commercial or recreational value of the reservoir. Rare or endangered species may also create similar conflicts. The establishment of an ecological restoration bonding program that includes environmental education and conservation prior to new dam construction may aid in resolving potential conflicts in the future.

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