Science/Ecology

Incorporating thermal regimes into environmental flows assessments: modifying dam operations to restore freshwater ecosystem int

Source: 
Freshwater Biology
Volume: 
55
Year: 
2010
Abstract: 
  1. Despite escalating conflict over fresh water, recent years have witnessed a growing realisation that human society must modify its behaviour to ensure long-term ecological vitality of riverine ecosystems. In response, ecologists have been increasingly asked to guide instream flow management by providing ‘environmental flow’ prescriptions for sustaining the ecological integrity of riverine systems.
  2. Environmental flows are typically discussed in the context of water releases from dams and water allocation for extraction (such as for urban use or irrigation), where there is general agreement that rivers need to exhibit some resemblance of natural flow variability necessary to support a functioning ecosystem. Although productive dialogue continues on how best to define environmental flows, these discussions have been focused primarily on water quantity without explicit consideration of many components of water quality, including water temperature – a fundamental ecological variable.
  3. Many human activities on the landscape have modified riverine thermal regimes. In particular, many dams have modified thermal regimes by selectively releasing hypolimnetic (cold) or epilimnetic (warm) water from thermally stratified reservoirs to the detriment of entire assemblages of native organisms. Despite the global scope of thermal alteration by dams, the prevention or mitigation of thermal degradation has not entered the conversation when environmental flows are discussed.
  4. Here, we propose that a river’s thermal regime is a key, yet poorly acknowledged, component of environmental flows. This study explores the concept of the natural thermal regime, reviews how dam operations modify thermal regimes, and discusses the ecological implications of thermal alteration for freshwater ecosystems. We identify five majorchallenges for incorporating water temperatures into environmental flow assessments, and describe future research opportunities and some alternative approaches for confronting those challenges.
  5. We encourage ecologists and water managers to broaden their perspective on environmental flows to include both water quantity and quality with respect to restoring natural thermal regimes. We suggest that scientific research should focus on the comprehensive characterisation of seasonality and variability in stream temperatures, quantification of the temporal and spatial impacts of dam operations on thermal regimes and clearer elucidation of the relative roles of altered flow and temperature in shaping ecological patterns and processes in riverine ecosystems. Future investigations should also concentrate on using this acquired knowledge to identify the ‘manageable’ components of the thermal regime, and develop optimisation models that evaluate management trade-offs and provide a range of optimal environmental flows that meet both ecosystem and human needs for fresh water.
Author(s): 

Julian D. Olden and Naiman, Robert J.

Notes: 
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The Disconnect Between Restoration Goals and Practices: A Case Study of Watershed Restoration in the Russian River Basin, CA

Source: 
Restoration Ecology
Year: 
2008
Abstract: 

Over the past two decades, watershed restoration has dramatically increased internationally. California has been atthe forefront, allocating billions of dollars to restoration activities through legislation and voter-approved bonds. Yet, the implications of restoration remain ambiguous because there has been little examination of restoration accomplishments and almost no analysis of the political context of restoration. This article addresses these gaps, utilizing a case study of the Russian River basin in Northern California. We identify trends that shed light on both the ecological and the political implications of restoration at a basin scale by examining a database of 787 restoration projects implemented in the Russian River basin since the early 1980s. Although a total of over $47 million has been spent on restoration in the basin, dominant forms of restoration are limited in scope to small-scale projects that focus on technical solutions to site-specific problems. The majority of restoration efforts are devoted to road repair,riparian stabilization, and in-stream structures, accounting for 62% of all projects. These types of projects do not address the broader social drivers of watershed change such as land and water uses. We suggest that restoration can become more effective by addressing the entire watershed as a combination of social and ecological forces that interact to produce watershed conditions. 

Author(s): 

Christian-Smith, Julie and Adina M. Merenlender

Contact: 
Notes: 

Incorporating Thermal Regimes into Envtl Flows Assessments: modifying dam operations to restore freshwater ecosystem integrity

Source: 
Freshwater Biology
Volume: 
55
Year: 
2010
Abstract: 
  1. Despite escalating conflict over fresh water, recent years have witnessed a growing realisation that human society must modify its behaviour to ensure long-term ecological vitality of riverine ecosystems. In response, ecologists have been increasingly asked to guide instream flow management by providing ‘environmental flow’ prescriptions for sustaining the ecological integrity of riverine systems.
  2. Environmental flows are typically discussed in the context of water releases from dams and water allocation for extraction (such as for urban use or irrigation), where there is general agreement that rivers need to exhibit some resemblance of natural flow variability necessary to support a functioning ecosystem. Although productive dialogue continues on how best to define environmental flows, these discussions have been focused primarily on water quantity without explicit consideration of many components of water quality, including water temperature – a fundamental ecological variable.
  3. Many human activities on the landscape have modified riverine thermal regimes. In particular, many dams have modified thermal regimes by selectively releasing hypolimnetic (cold) or epilimnetic (warm) water from thermally stratified reservoirs to the detriment of entire assemblages of native organisms. Despite the global scope of thermal alteration by dams, the prevention or mitigation of thermal degradation has not entered the conversation when environmental flows are discussed.
  4. Here, we propose that a river’s thermal regime is a key, yet poorly acknowledged, component of environmental flows. This study explores the concept of the natural thermal regime, reviews how dam operations modify thermal regimes, and discusses the ecological implications of thermal alteration for freshwater ecosystems. We identify five major challenges for incorporating water temperatures into environmental flow assessments, and describe future research opportunities and some alternative approaches for confronting those challenges.
  5. We encourage ecologists and water managers to broaden their perspective on environmental flows to include both water quantity and quality with respect to restoring natural thermal regimes. We suggest that scientific research should focus on the comprehensive characterisation of seasonality and variability in stream temperatures, quantification of the temporal and spatial impacts of dam operations on thermal regimes and clearer elucidation of the relative roles of altered flow and temperature in shaping ecological patterns and processes in riverine ecosystems. Future investigations should also concentrate on using this acquired knowledge to identify the ‘manageable’ components of the thermal regime, and develop optimisation models that evaluate management trade-offs and provide a range of optimal environmental flows that meet both ecosystem and human needs for fresh water.
Author(s): 

JULIAN D. OLDEN AND ROBERT J. NAIMAN

Contact: 
Notes: 
Category: 

Estimated impacts of climate warming on California’s high-elevation hydropower

Source: 
Climatic Change
Year: 
2009
Abstract: 

California’s hydropower system is composed of high and low elevation power plants. There are more than 150 high-elevation power plants, at elevations above 1,000 feet (300 m). Most have modest reservoir storage capacities, but supply roughly 74% of California’s in-state hydropower. The expected shift of runoff peak from spring to winter due to climate warming, resulting in snowpack reduction and increased snowmelt, might have important effects on power generation and revenues in California. The large storage capacities at low-elevation power plants provide flexibility to operations of these units under climate warming. However, with climate warming, the adaptability of the high-elevation hydropower system is in question as this system was designed to take advantage of snowpack, a natural reservoir.With so many high-elevation hydropower plants in California, estimation of climate warming effects by conventional simulation or optimization methods would be tedious and expensive. An Energy-Based Hydropower Optimization Model (EBHOM) was developed to facilitate practical climate change and other low-resolution system-wide hydropower studies, based on the historical generation data of 137 high-elevation hydropower plants for which the data were complete for 14 years. Employing recent historical hourly energy prices, the model was used to explore energy generation in California for three climate warming scenarios (dry warming, wet warming, and warming-only) over 14 years, representing a range of hydrologic conditions. The system is sensitive to the quantity and timing of inflows. While dry warming and warming-only climate changes reduce average hydropower revenues, wet warming could increase revenue. Re-operation of available storage and generation capacities help compensate for snowpack losses to some extent. Storage capacity expansion and to a lesser extent generation capacity expansion both increase revenues, although such expansions might not be cost-effective. 

Author(s): 

Kaveh Madani, Jay R. Lund

Contact: 
Notes: 
Category: 

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