River Research and Applications

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Seasonal effects of a hydropeaking dam on a downstream benthic macroinvertebrate community
Jordan Edward Mihalicz | Timothy D. Jardine | Helen M. Baulch | Iain D. Phillips

As more hydroelectric dams regulate rivers to meet growing energy demands, there is ongoing concern about downstream effects, including impacts on downstream benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) communities. Hydropeaking is a common hydroelectric practice where short‐term variation in power production leads to large and often rapid fluctuations in discharge and water level. There are key knowledge gaps on the ecosystem impacts of hydropeaking in large rivers, the seasonality of these impacts, and whether dams can be managed to lessen impacts. We assessed how patterns of hydropeaking affect abundance, taxonomic richness, and relative tolerance of BMIs in the Saskatchewan River (Saskatchewan, Canada). Reaches immediately (<2 km) downstream of the dam generally had high densities of BMIs and comparable taxonomic diversity relative to upstream locations but were characterized by lower ratios of sensitive (e.g., Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera) to tolerant (e.g., Chironomidae) taxa. The magnitude of effect varied with seasonal changes in discharge. Understanding the effects of river regulation on BMI biodiversity and river health has implications for mitigating the impacts of hydropeaking dams on downstream ecosystems. Although we demonstrated that a hydropeaking dam may contribute to a significantly different downstream BMI assemblage, we emphasize that seasonality is a key consideration. The greatest differences between upstream and downstream locations occurred in spring, suggesting standard methods of late summer and fall sampling may underestimate ecosystem‐scale impacts.

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Modelling the effects of climate and flow regulation on ice‐affected backwater staging in a large northern river
Prabin Rokaya | Daniel L. Peters | Barrie Bonsal | H. S. Wheater | Karl–Erich Lindenschmidt

In cold region environments, ice‐jam floods (IJFs) pose a severe risk to local communities, economies, and ecosystems. Previous studies have shown that both climate and regulation affect IJF probabilities, but their relative impacts are poorly understood. This study presents a probabilistic modelling framework that couples hydrologic and hydraulic models to assess the relative role of regulated and naturalized flows on ice‐affected backwater staging. The framework is evaluated at an IJF‐prone town on the Peace River in western Canada, which has been regulated since 1972. Naturalized flows were generated for the comparison, and ice‐affected backwater profiles were calculated along jams of varying length and location and for different combinations of model parameters and boundary conditions. Results show significant differences in backwater staging (~2 m for a return period of T = 1:10 year) between two study time periods (1973–1992 vs 1993–2012) as compared with two different hydraulic flow conditions (regulated vs naturalized), suggesting a larger role of climate than regulation in backwater staging. However, regulation was found to offset flood risk during the 1973–1992 period and exacerbate flood risk during the 1993–2012 period.