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Concept: Dam


Background Reservoirs created by damming rivers are often believed to increase malaria incidence risk and/or stretch the period of malaria transmission. In this paper, we report the effects of a mega hydropower dam on P. falciparum malaria incidence in Ethiopia.Methods A longitudinal cohort study was conducted over a period of 2 years to determine Plasmodium falciparum malaria incidence among children less than 10 years of age living near a mega hydropower dam in Ethiopia. A total of 2080 children from 16 villages located at different distances from a hydropower dam were followed up from 2008 to 2010 using active detection of cases based on weekly house to house visits. Of this cohort of children, 951 (48.09%) were females and 1059 (51.91%) were males, with a median age of 5 years. Malaria vectors were simultaneously surveyed in all the 16 study villages. Frailty models were used to explore associations between time-to-malaria and potential risk factors, whereas, mixed-effects Poisson regression models were used to assess the effect of different covariates on anopheline abundance.Results Overall, 548 (26.86%) children experienced at least one clinical malaria episode during the follow up period with mean incidence rate of 14.26 cases/1000 child-months at risk (95% CI: 12.16 - 16.36). P. falciparum malaria incidence showed no statistically significant association with distance from the dam reservoir (p = 0.32). However, P. falciparum incidence varied significantly between seasons (p < 0.01). The malaria vector, Anopheles arabiensis, was however more abundant in villages nearer to the dam reservoir.Conclusions P. falciparum malaria incidence dynamics were more influenced by seasonal drivers than by the dam reservoir itself. The findings could have implications in timing optimal malaria control interventions and in developing an early warning system in Ethiopia.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Epidemiology, Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium, Anopheles, Dam, Reservoir


The Three Gorges Dam has significantly altered ecological and environmental conditions within the reservoir region, but how these changes affect bacterioplankton structure and function is unknown. Here, three widely accepted metagenomic tools were employed to study the impact of damming on the bacterioplankton community in the Xiangxi River. Our results indicated that bacterioplankton communities were both taxonomically and functionally different between backwater and riverine sites, which represent communities with and without direct dam effects, respectively. There were many more nitrogen cycling Betaproteobacteria (e.g., Limnohabitans), and a higher abundance of functional genes and KEGG orthology (KO) groups involved in nitrogen cycling in the riverine sites, suggesting a higher level of bacterial activity involved in generating more nitrogenous nutrients for the growth of phytoplankton. Additionally, the KO categories involved in carbon and sulfur metabolism, as well as most of the detected functional genes also showed clear backwater and riverine patterns. As expected, these diversity patterns all significantly correlated with environmental characteristics, confirming that the bacterioplankton communities in the Xiangxi River were really affected by environmental changes from the Three Gorges Dam. This study provides a first comparative metagenomic insight for evaluating the impacts of the large dam on microbial function.

Concepts: Oxygen, Bacteria, Metabolism, Nitrogen, River, Dam, Three Gorges Dam, Three Gorges


The increasing impact of both climatic change and human activities on global river systems necessitates an increasing need to identify and quantify the various drivers and their impacts on fluvial water and sediment discharge. Here we show that mean Yangtze River water discharge of the first decade after the closing of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) (2003-2012) was 67 km(3)/yr (7%) lower than that of the previous 50 years (1950-2002), and 126 km(3)/yr less compared to the relatively wet period of pre-TGD decade (1993-2002). Most (60-70%) of the decline can be attributed to decreased precipitation, the remainder resulting from construction of reservoirs, improved water-soil conservation and increased water consumption. Mean sediment flux decreased by 71% between 1950-1968 and the post-TGD decade, about half of which occurred prior to the pre-TGD decade. Approximately 30% of the total decline and 65% of the decline since 2003 can be attributed to the TGD, 5% and 14% of these declines to precipitation change, and the remaining to other dams and soil conservation within the drainage basin. These findings highlight the degree to which changes in riverine water and sediment discharge can be related with multiple environmental and anthropogenic factors.

Concepts: Drainage basin, Yangtze River, Chongqing, Dam, Three Gorges Dam, Hubei, Three Gorges, Yichang


Longitudinal connectivity is a fundamental characteristic of rivers that can be disrupted by natural and anthropogenic processes. Dams are significant disruptions to streams. Over 2,000,000 low-head dams (<7.6 m high) fragment United States rivers. Despite potential adverse impacts of these ubiquitous disturbances, the spatial impacts of low-head dams on geomorphology and ecology are largely untested. Progress for research and conservation is impaired by not knowing the magnitude of low-head dam impacts. Based on the geomorphic literature, we refined a methodology that allowed us to quantify the spatial extent of low-head dam impacts (herein dam footprint), assessed variation in dam footprints across low-head dams within a river network, and identified select aspects of the context of this variation. Wetted width, depth, and substrate size distributions upstream and downstream of six low-head dams within the Upper Neosho River, Kansas, United States of America were measured. Total dam footprints averaged 7.9 km (3.0-15.3 km) or 287 wetted widths (136-437 wetted widths). Estimates included both upstream (mean: 6.7 km or 243 wetted widths) and downstream footprints (mean: 1.2 km or 44 wetted widths). Altogether the six low-head dams impacted 47.3 km (about 17%) of the mainstem in the river network. Despite differences in age, size, location, and primary function, the sizes of geomorphic footprints of individual low-head dams in the Upper Neosho river network were relatively similar. The number of upstream dams and distance to upstream dams, but not dam height, affected the spatial extent of dam footprints. In summary, ubiquitous low-head dams individually and cumulatively altered lotic ecosystems. Both characteristics of individual dams and the context of neighboring dams affected low-head dam impacts within the river network. For these reasons, low-head dams require a different, more integrative, approach for research and management than the individualistic approach that has been applied to larger dams.

Concepts: United States, River, Individualism, Dam, Flood, Geomorphology, Sediment transport, Levee


Assessing the probability of very low or high water levels is an important issue in the management of hydroelectric dams. In the case of the Akosombo dam, very low and high water levels result in load shedding of electrical power and flooding in communities downstream respectively. In this paper, we use extreme value theory to estimate the probability and return period of very low water levels that can result in load shedding or a complete shutdown of the dam’s operations. In addition, we assess the probability and return period of high water levels near the height of the dam and beyond. This provides a framework for a possible extension of the dam to sustain the generation of electrical power and reduce the frequency of spillage that causes flooding in communities downstream. The results show that an extension of the dam can reduce the probability and prolong the return period of a flood. In addition, we found a negligible probability of a complete shutdown of the dam due to inadequate water level.

Concepts: Dam, Flood, Hydroelectricity, Three Gorges Dam, Tidal power, Hydropower


While there is growing recognition of the malaria impacts of large dams in sub-Saharan Africa, the cumulative malaria impact of reservoirs associated with current and future dam developments has not been quantified. The objective of this study was to estimate the current and predict the future impact of large dams on malaria in different eco-epidemiological settings across sub-Saharan Africa.

Concepts: Malaria, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Prediction, Futurology, Future, Forecasting, Dam


Earthquakes in unusual locations have become an important topic of discussion in both North America and Europe, owing to the concern that industrial activity could cause damaging earthquakes. It has long been understood that earthquakes can be induced by impoundment of reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into underground formations. Injection-induced earthquakes have, in particular, become a focus of discussion as the application of hydraulic fracturing to tight shale formations is enabling the production of oil and gas from previously unproductive formations. Earthquakes can be induced as part of the process to stimulate the production from tight shale formations, or by disposal of wastewater associated with stimulation and production. Here, I review recent seismic activity that may be associated with industrial activity, with a focus on the disposal of wastewater by injection in deep wells; assess the scientific understanding of induced earthquakes; and discuss the key scientific challenges to be met for assessing this hazard.

Concepts: Perception, Europe, Liquid, Earthquake, Dam, Earthquake engineering, Seismic wave, Seismology


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has embarked on a new era of dam building to improve food security and promote economic development. Nonetheless, the future impacts of dams on malaria transmission are poorly understood and seldom investigated in the context of climate and demographic change.

Concepts: Malaria, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Poverty, Food security, Dam, Economic development


As international concern for the survival of deltas grows, the Mekong River delta, the world’s third largest delta, densely populated, considered as Southeast Asia’s most important food basket, and rich in biodiversity at the world scale, is also increasingly affected by human activities and exposed to subsidence and coastal erosion. Several dams have been constructed upstream of the delta and many more are now planned. We quantify from high-resolution SPOT 5 satellite images large-scale shoreline erosion and land loss between 2003 and 2012 that now affect over 50% of the once strongly advancing >600 km-long delta shoreline. Erosion, with no identified change in the river’s discharge and in wave and wind conditions over this recent period, is consistent with: (1) a reported significant decrease in coastal surface suspended sediment from the Mekong that may be linked to dam retention of its sediment, (2) large-scale commercial sand mining in the river and delta channels, and (3) subsidence due to groundwater extraction. Shoreline erosion is already responsible for displacement of coastal populations. It is an additional hazard to the integrity of this Asian mega delta now considered particularly vulnerable to accelerated subsidence and sea-level rise, and will be exacerbated by future hydropower dams.

Concepts: Sediment, River, Population density, River delta, Dam, Coastal geography, Geomorphology, Sediment transport


Mega hydropower projects in tropical forests pose a major emergent threat to terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity worldwide. Despite the unprecedented number of existing, under-construction and planned hydroelectric dams in lowland tropical forests, long-term effects on biodiversity have yet to be evaluated. We examine how medium and large-bodied assemblages of terrestrial and arboreal vertebrates (including 35 mammal, bird and tortoise species) responded to the drastic 26-year post-isolation history of archipelagic alteration in landscape structure and habitat quality in a major hydroelectric reservoir of Central Amazonia. The Balbina Hydroelectric Dam inundated 3,129 km2 of primary forests, simultaneously isolating 3,546 land-bridge islands. We conducted intensive biodiversity surveys at 37 of those islands and three adjacent continuous forests using a combination of four survey techniques, and detected strong forest habitat area effects in explaining patterns of vertebrate extinction. Beyond clear area effects, edge-mediated surface fire disturbance was the most important additional driver of species loss, particularly in islands smaller than 10 ha. Based on species-area models, we predict that only 0.7% of all islands now harbor a species-rich vertebrate assemblage consisting of ≥80% of all species. We highlight the colossal erosion in vertebrate diversity driven by a man-made dam and show that the biodiversity impacts of mega dams in lowland tropical forest regions have been severely overlooked. The geopolitical strategy to deploy many more large hydropower infrastructure projects in regions like lowland Amazonia should be urgently reassessed, and we strongly advise that long-term biodiversity impacts should be explicitly included in pre-approval environmental impact assessments.

Concepts: Forest, Brazil, Tropical rainforest, Dam, Hydroelectricity, Three Gorges Dam, Dinosaur, Water wheel