Eutrophication downstream from small reservoirs in mountain rivers of Central Spain.

Research paper by Julio A JA Camargo, Alvaro A Alonso, Marcos M de la Puente

Indexed on: 26 Jul '05Published on: 26 Jul '05Published in: Water Research


In this research we examined the hypothesis that upper reaches of rivers and streams can experience eutrophication as a consequence of deep releases from dams. Field studies were conducted in four mountain rivers (Tormes, Riaza, Eresma and Miraflores Rivers) of Central Spain. The watersheds of these rivers are underlain by siliceous rocks. A small deep-release storage reservoir is found in the upper reaches of each river. Two sampling sites, upstream and downstream from the reservoir, were established in stony riffles of each impounded river. Significant (P < 0.01) increases in conductivity and nutrient (NO3-N, NH4-N, PO4-P) concentrations downstream from the reservoirs were measured. Significant (P < 0.01) increases in periphyton chlorophyll a and ash-free dry biomass were also quantified at downstream sites. Significant (P < 0.01) correlation coefficients indicated that phosphate would play a more important role as the limiting nutrient for periphyton. Relative abundances of macroinvertebrate scrapers and collector-gatherers increased downstream from the reservoirs. Furthermore, taxon dominance, total density and total biomass of macroinvertebrates tended to be higher at downstream sites than at upstream sites. In contrast, taxon diversity and relative abundance of macroinvertebrate shredders decreased downstream from the reservoirs. It is concluded that small deep-release storage reservoirs, located in upper reaches of siliceous rivers, can act as nutrient sources, causing eutrophication downstream. Nutrients would ultimately come from land/forest runoff. The fact that terrestrial vegetation was not completely removed before filling reservoirs could also contribute to the eutrophication process.