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Concept: Reservoir


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


Developing countries around the world are expanding hydropower to meet growing energy demand. In the Brazilian Amazon, >200 dams are planned over the next 30 years, and questions about the impacts of current and future hydropower in this globally important watershed remain unanswered. In this context, we applied a hydrologic indicator method to quantify how existing Amazon dams have altered the natural flow regime and to identify predictors of alteration. The type and magnitude of hydrologic alteration varied widely by dam, but the largest changes were to critical characteristics of the flood pulse. Impacts were largest for low-elevation, large-reservoir dams; however, small dams had enormous impacts relative to electricity production. Finally, the “cumulative” effect of multiple dams was significant but only for some aspects of the flow regime. This analysis is a first step toward the development of environmental flows plans and policies relevant to the Amazon and other megadiverse river basins.

Concepts: Hydrology, River, Drainage basin, Amazon River, Dam, Flood, Reservoir, Watermill


Tempo-spatial patterns of mercury bioaccumulation and tropho-dynamics, and the potential for a reservoir effect were evaluated in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR, China) from 2011 to 2012, using total mercury concentrations (THg) and stable isotopes (δ(13)C and δ(15)N) of food web components (seston, aquatic invertebrates and fish). Hg concentrations in aquatic invertebrates and fish indicated a significant temporal trend associated with regular seasonal water-level manipulation. This includes water level lowering to allow for storage of water during the wet season (summer); a decrease of water levels from September to June providing a setting for flood storage. Hg concentrations in organisms were the highest after flooding. Higher Hg concentrations in fish were observed at the location farthest from the dam. Hg concentrations in water and sediment were correlated. Compared with the reservoirs of United States and Canada, TGR had lower trophic magnification factors (0.046-0.066), that are explained primarily by organic carbon concentrations in sediment, and the effect of “growth dilution”. Based on comparison before and after the impoundment of TGR, THg concentration in biota did not display an obvious long-term reservoir effect due to (i) short time since inundation, (ii) regular water discharge associated with water-level regulation, and/or (iii) low organic matter content in the sediment.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Hydrology, River, Dam, Flood, Level, Reservoir


In a long-term program to monitor pathogens in water catchments serving the City of Melbourne in the State of Victoria in Australia, we detected and genetically characterised Cryptosporidium and Giardia in faecal samples from various animals in nine water reservoir areas over a period of 4 years (July 2011 to November 2015).

Concepts: Water, Drainage basin, Australia, Victoria, Reservoir, Melbourne, Southbank, Victoria, Local Government Areas of Victoria


Dams have long been associated with elevated burdens of human schistosomiasis, but how dams increase disease is not always clear, in part because dams have many ecological and socio-economic effects. A recent hypothesis argues that dams block reproduction of the migratory river prawns that eat the snail hosts of schistosomiasis. In the Senegal River Basin, there is evidence that prawn populations declined and schistosomiasis increased after completion of the Diama Dam. Restoring prawns to a water-access site upstream of the dam reduced snail density and reinfection rates in people. However, whether a similar cascade of effects (from dams to prawns to snails to human schistosomiasis) occurs elsewhere is unknown. Here, we examine large dams worldwide and identify where their catchments intersect with endemic schistosomiasis and the historical habitat ranges of large, migratory Macrobrachium spp. prawns. River prawn habitats are widespread, and we estimate that 277-385 million people live within schistosomiasis-endemic regions where river prawns are or were present (out of the 800 million people who are at risk of schistosomiasis). Using a published repository of schistosomiasis studies in sub-Saharan Africa, we compared infection before and after the construction of 14 large dams for people living in: (i) upstream catchments within historical habitats of native prawns, (ii) comparable undammed watersheds, and (iii) dammed catchments beyond the historical reach of migratory prawns. Damming was followed by greater increases in schistosomiasis within prawn habitats than outside prawn habitats. We estimate that one third to one half of the global population-at-risk of schistosomiasis could benefit from restoration of native prawns. Because dams block prawn migrations, our results suggest that prawn extirpation contributes to the sharp increase of schistosomiasis after damming, and points to prawn restoration as an ecological solution for reducing human disease.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Conservation, biodiversity and infectious disease: scientific evidence and policy implications’.

Concepts: Infectious disease, River, Dam, Flood, Reservoir, Levee, Weir, Watermill


More than 70,000 large dams have been built worldwide. With growing water stress and demand for energy, this number will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. Damming greatly modifies the ecological functioning of river systems. In particular, dam reservoirs sequester nutrient elements and, hence, reduce downstream transfer of nutrients to floodplains, lakes, wetlands, and coastal marine environments. Here, we quantify the global impact of dams on the riverine fluxes and speciation of the limiting nutrient phosphorus (P), using a mechanistic modeling approach that accounts for the in-reservoir biogeochemical transformations of P. According to the model calculations, the mass of total P (TP) trapped in reservoirs nearly doubled between 1970 and 2000, reaching 42 Gmol y(-1), or 12% of the global river TP load in 2000. Because of the current surge in dam building, we project that by 2030, about 17% of the global river TP load will be sequestered in reservoir sediments. The largest projected increases in TP and reactive P (RP) retention by damming will take place in Asia and South America, especially in the Yangtze, Mekong, and Amazon drainage basins. Despite the large P retention capacity of reservoirs, the export of RP from watersheds will continue to grow unless additional measures are taken to curb anthropogenic P emissions.

Concepts: Water pollution, River, Drainage basin, Dam, Flood, Reservoir, Levee, Watermill


The damming of rivers represents one of the most far-reaching human modifications of the flows of water and associated matter from land to sea. Dam reservoirs are hotspots of sediment accumulation, primary productivity (P) and carbon mineralization ® along the river continuum. Here we show that for the period 1970-2030, global carbon mineralization in reservoirs exceeds carbon fixation (P

Concepts: River, Plastic, Dam, Flood, Carbon cycle, Reservoir, Levee, Watermill


Pastoralism is a major agricultural activity in drier environments, and can directly and indirectly impact native species in those areas. We investigated how the supply of an artificial watering point to support grazing livestock affected movement and activity patterns of the Australian sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) during a drought year. We observed 23 adult lizards; six had access to a dam, whereas 17 lizards did not. Lizards with access to the dam had larger home ranges, were substantially active on more days (days with >100 steps), and moved more steps per day compared to lizards that did not have access to the dam, both during the early and late period of our observation. Furthermore, while the two groups of lizards had similar body condition early in the season, they differed later in the season. Lizards with dam access retained, whereas lizards without access lost body condition. Local heterogeneity in access to an artificial water resource resulted in spatially dependent behavioural variation among sleepy lizard individuals. This suggests that sleepy lizards have flexible responses to changing climatic conditions, depending on the availability of water. Furthermore, while reducing activity appears a suitable short term strategy, if harsh conditions persist, then access to dams could be of substantial benefit and could support sustained lizard activity and movement and allow maintenance of body condition. Hence, artificial watering points, such as the dams constructed by pastoralists, may provide local higher quality refugia for sleepy lizards and other species during drought conditions.

Concepts: Agriculture, Water, Climate, Livestock, Tiliqua rugosa, Blue-tongued skink, Lizard, Reservoir


Inland waters transport and transform substantial amounts of carbon and account for ~18% of global methane emissions. Large reservoirs with higher areal methane release rates than natural waters contribute significantly to freshwater emissions. However, there are millions of small dams worldwide that receive and trap high loads of organic carbon and can therefore potentially emit significant amounts of methane to the atmosphere. We evaluated the effect of damming on methane emissions in a central European impounded river. Direct comparison of riverine and reservoir reaches, where sedimentation in the latter is increased due to trapping by dams, revealed that the reservoir reaches are the major source of methane emissions (~ 0.23 mmol CH4 m(-2) d(-1) vs. ~19.7 mmol CH4 m(-2) d(-1) respectively), and that areal emission rates far exceed previous estimates for temperate reservoirs or rivers. We show that sediment accumulation correlates with methane production and subsequent ebullitive release rates and may therefore be an excellent proxy for estimating methane emissions from small reservoirs. Our results suggest that sedimentation-driven methane emissions from dammed river hotspot sites can potentially increase global freshwater emissions by up to 7%.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, River, Methane, Dam, Canal, Flood, Reservoir, Levee


Despite the prevalence of damming as a global disturbance to river habitats, detailed reach-based assessments of the ecological effects of dams are lacking, particularly across large spatial extents. Using data from nearly 50,000 large dams, we assessed stream network fragmentation and flow alteration by large dams for streams of the conterminous USA. We developed 21 dam metrics characterizing a diversity of dam influences operating at both localized (e.g., distances-to-dams) and landscape scales (e.g., cumulative reservoir storage throughout stream networks) for every stream reach in the study region. We further evaluated how dams have affected stream fish assemblages within large ecoregions using more than 37,000 stream fish samples. Streams have been severely fragmented by large dams, with the number of stream segments increasing by 801% compared to free-flowing streams in the absence of dams and a staggering 79% of stream length is disconnected from their outlet (i.e., oceans and Great Lakes). Flow alteration metrics demonstrate a landscape-scale disturbance of dams, resulting in total upstream reservoir storage volumes exceeding estimated annual discharge volumes of many of the nation’s largest rivers. Further, we show large-scale changes in fish assemblages with dams. Species adapted to lentic habitats increase with dams across the conterminous USA, while rheophils, lithophils, and intolerant fishes decrease with dams. Overall, fragmentation and flow alteration by dams have affected fish assemblages as much or more than other anthropogenic stressors, with dam effects generally increasing with stream size. Dam-induced stream fragmentation and flow alteration are critical natural resource issues. This study emphasizes the importance of considering dams as a landscape-scale disturbance to river habitats along with the need to assess differential effects that dams may have on river habitats and the fishes they support. Together, these insights are essential for more effective conservation of stream resources and biotic communities globally.

Concepts: Assessment, River, Stream, Dam, Flood, Reservoir, Levee, Environmental impacts of dams