Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

TUM scientists document aquatic species decline at dams and weirs

15.09.2011
Comprehensive analysis reveals extent and complexity of dams' effects on ecosystems

Dams and weirs have a stronger impact on the ecosystem of watercourses than was previously realized. Species diversity in the dammed area upstream of weirs shows a significant decline: the diversity of fish species is one-quarter lower on average, and species diversity among invertebrates is up to 50 percent lower.

The interruption of a river course thus has greater effects on the biodiversity than the geological origin of the river itself. Scientists from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen have demonstrated this on the basis of a survey of five rivers in the catchment areas of the Elbe, Rhine/Main, and Danube. Their analysis records, for the first time, both abiotic factors, for example chemical composition, current, and river bed substrate, and biotic factors, such as the number, size, and diversity of all important animal and plant groups on the two sides of weirs. The TUM researchers will present their findings, which have already been published online in the Journal of Applied Ecology, at the annual conference of the German Limnological Society, which takes place from September 12 to 16, 2011.

Whether it is done for the generation of electricity, for flood protection, or collection of drinking water, the damming of a river represents a drastic intervention in its ecosystem. Weirs and dams alter the chemical and physical characteristics of the water and the riverbed. Their construction is accompanied by a clear decline in upstream species diversity, and this is exacerbated by successive damming. This phenomenon, which is known as "serial discontinuity," has now been measured for all important animal and plant groups by system biologists from the TUM for the first time; the information available up to now concerned only individual taxonomic groups or species. The scientists carried out a systematic survey of the aquatic organisms on both sides of the weirs in five rivers of different geological origins. Their survey revealed a significant reduction in the number, biomass and variety of periphyton, invertebrates, and fish species upstream of the weirs. Compared with downstream areas, the diversity of fish species measured upstream of weirs was 25 percent lower on average; a threefold decline in biomass was also observed.

Current-loving fish species, many of which are on the "Red List" of endangered species, are particularly severely affected. "Brown trout, grayling and Danube salmon are demanding fish species that require oxygen-rich water and spawn in coarse gravel areas. As typical residents of the upper reaches of rivers, they are unable to find suitable habitats in dammed areas," explains Juergen Geist, Professor of Aquatic Systems Biology at TUM. "These river sections are often dominated instead by bream, chub, and even carp – generalist species that are actually adapted to stagnant waters. The ecological impoverishment of rivers is particularly dramatic when series of dams prevent the sufficient interlinking of different habitat types," says Geist. According to the Bayerische Landesamt für Umwelt (Bavarian Environmental Agency) there are more than 10,000 weirs in Bavaria's rivers alone.

According to the researchers, the main reason for the species decline is not the impermeability of the barrier to migrating fish species. Instead, the deciding factor is the chemical and physical alteration of the river itself which leads to a reduction of biodiversity. If the current is decelerated or interrupted, the flow rate upstream of the weir declines, and this is accompanied by increased water depth. In all of the surveyed dammed areas, the TUM scientists also recorded major differences in the oxygen content and temperature of the water and the sediment in the river bed, which hinders reproduction in current-loving fish species. The situation is compounded by differences in the structure of the sediments. The particles in the sediment found downstream of weirs are twice as large on average as those upstream, providing more and better quality spawning grounds.

River sections in the direct proximity of weirs should, therefore, be given greater consideration in ecological quality assessments, notes Prof. Geist: "During the evaluation of new weirs or modernization of hydroelectric power plants, attention should no longer be focused exclusively on the migration of fish species, but on the consequences of the structure and function for the river ecosystem as a whole." To ensure this, affected river sections must be covered by the relevant laws or regulations, such as the European Union Water Framework Directive. "A set of instruments for the quantification of the effects of weirs is now available, which records both the quality of the habitat and its biodiversity," says the TUM scientist.

Publication: M. Mueller, J. Pander, J. Geist: The effects of weirs on structural stream habitat and biological communities, Journal of Applied Ecology (early online)

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02035.x/abstract

Contact:
Prof. Juergen Geist
Aquatic Systems Biology Unit
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Telephone: + 49 (0)8161 71 3767
E-Mail: geist@wzw.tum.de
More information: Annual conference of the German Limnological Society, September 12-16, 2011

http://www.dgl2011.de/

Innovative small-scale hydroelectric power plant: Shaft power plant designed by the Department of Hydraulic and Water Resources Engineering TUM

http://portal.mytum.de/pressestelle/pressemitteilungen/news_article.2010-10-19.2049821025

Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) is one of Europe's leading universities. It has roughly 460 professors, 7,500 academic and non-academic staff (including those at the university hospital "Rechts der Isar"), and 26,000 students. It focuses on the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences, medicine, and economic sciences. After winning numerous awards, it was selected as an "Elite University" in 2006 by the Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The university's global network includes an outpost with a research campus in Singapore. TUM is dedicated to the ideal of a top-level research based entrepreneurial university. http://www.tum.de

Undine Ziller | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tum.de

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World's first solar fuels reactor for night passes test

21.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

Similarities found in cancer initiation in kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas

21.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

First line of defence against influenza further decoded

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>