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Dam operations may improve aquatic habitat and offset negative effects of climate change

ABSTRACT

Publication date: 1 May 2018 Source:Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 213 Author(s): Rohan Benjankar, Daniele Tonina, James A. McKean, Mohammad M. Sohrabi, Quiwen Chen, Dmitri Vidergar

Dam operation impacts on stream hydraulics and ecological processes are well documented, but their effect depends on geographical regions and varies spatially and temporally. Many studies have quantified their effects on aquatic ecosystem based mostly on flow hydraulics overlooking stream water temperature and climatic conditions. Here, we used an integrated modeling framework, an ecohydraulics virtual watershed, that links catchment hydrology, hydraulics, stream water temperature and aquatic habitat models to test the hypothesis that reservoir management may help to mitigate some impacts caused by climate change on downstream flows and temperature. To address this hypothesis we applied the model to analyze the impact of reservoir operation (regulated flows) on Bull Trout, a cold water obligate salmonid, habitat, against unregulated flows for dry, average, and wet climatic conditions in the South Fork Boise River (SFBR), Idaho, USA.