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Reduce the negative impact of the expansion of Amazon hydropower on people and nature

The location, size, and design of hydroelectric dams determine the impact on the environmental and ecosystem services on which people depend. Here you will find the recently constructed Bello Monte Mega Dam in the Amazon lowlands of Brazil.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The rapid expansion of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon poses a serious threat to the largest and most biodiversity river basins on the planet. There are 158 dams in the Amazon basin, and 351 more have been proposed. These projects are usually evaluated individually and have few coordinated plans.New research announced today ChemistryProvides the first computational approach to assess basin-level trade-offs between hydropower and nature’s services with the aim of guiding sustainable dam locations.


Stephen Hamilton, co-author and ecological ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, explains: Energy output At the lowest environmental cost? The answer is to choose your project strategically. It takes into account multiple environmental standards that were previously difficult to explain at the same time when planning a large number of potential projects at the same time. “

Hamilton is part of an interdisciplinary team of environmental and computational experts who has developed a new framework, Amazon EcoVistas, for the collective analysis of proposed dam projects. Energy generation, And the impact on the environment. They analyzed five environmental standards: River flow, River connectivity, timber drafting, fish biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions. Their tools use artificial intelligence and high-performance computing to identify a portfolio of hydroelectric dams that achieve their energy production goals with minimal harm to the environment.

“Our tools can be used to evaluate hydropower projects for their collective impact on nature and people at the scale of the entire basin, as the Amazon River and its tributaries flow through multiple countries with diverse terrain. It’s a rare but important approach, “explains the co-author. Rafael Almeida, a former visiting graduate student at Cary, is currently an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Pan-American. This tool can also sort out particularly harmful projects. “The lack of plans for the entire basin will exacerbate river system fragmentation, blockage of fish migration, sediment capture, and methane emissions,” Almeida added.

Reduce the negative impact of the expansion of Amazon hydropower on people and nature

The location, size, and design of hydroelectric dams determine the impact on the environmental and ecosystem services on which people depend. Here, Agoyan Dam in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador.Credit: Elizabeth Anderson

Almeida states that the evaluated environmental standards also have social value. Dams block the sediment needed to fertilize crops that grow in floodplains. Deterioration of the fishery threatens important sources of food and income, and fragmentation of rivers impedes the transport of people and goods.

Running the “Amazon EcoVistas” algorithm on 158 existing dams and 351 proposed dams created scenarios based on all possible combinations of these projects. This allows you to determine a combination of “Pareto Optimal Frontiers” or hydropower projects that minimize the negative impact on the environment for a particular level of total hydropower. This process is very computationally intensive.There are two between a total of 509 projects509 (Or ~ 10153) Possible combinations-6 dimensions (energy output + 5) Environmental standards) Each will be evaluated.

Lead author Alexander Flecker, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, said: And the impact on various environments. “

For example, a dam in the steep Andean Valley upstream of the Amazon River creates a smaller reservoir, resulting in less flooded land and less methane emissions. Dams built higher in the river system are less confusing for fish that need to travel long distances, while dams built lower in the system block fish heading upstream in the river. To do. However, the Andes Dam nourishes downstream ecosystems and traps mountain sediments needed to maintain floodplains that are important to people and wildlife. Dams in steep valleys are also more likely to store water at higher flow rates, thereby causing further catastrophic changes in downstream flow.

Reduce the negative impact of the expansion of Amazon hydropower on people and nature

Location and energy generation capacity of 158 existing (red) and 351 proposed (yellow) hydroelectric dams in the Amazon Basin. Credit: Flecker et al. 2022

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to minimize the environmental impact of dam construction, but weigh the different ecological and social costs of different combinations of projects,” Frecker continued. It avoids the most harmful effects. It is the first person to make this kind of assessment possible on such a vast basin-wide scale. ”

“When we apply our method to Amazon’s existing dams, the lack of coordinated planning so far is a collectively harmful project than if an alternative strategically selected dam portfolio was built. You can see that it brought about, “explains Almeida. “This applies to all five criteria we have evaluated. Cross-border planning benefits all countries in the region, both in terms of meeting energy demand and promoting better environmental outcomes. Brings. “

By identifying opportunities for more sustainable hydropower development, Amazon EcoVistas proved useful to energy planners, decision makers, and researchers working to implement strategic whole basin dam projects. There is a possibility that It may also help assess the priority of dam removal in areas with dilapidated dams such as North America and Europe.

Hamilton said, “The energy program for hydropower is usually done on a national scale, even though electricity is exported across national borders. Our assessment is best for a coordinated watershed-wide plan. It shows that the impact on the environment can be reduced while becoming Energy production Important maintenance Ecosystem services.. ”


Climate change threatens hydroenergy security in the Amazon basin


For more information:
Alexander S. Flecker et al, Mitigating the negative effects of Amazon hydropower expansion, Chemistry (1970). DOI: 10.1126 / science.abj4017.. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abj4017

Quote: Reduce the negative impact of the expansion of Amazon hydropower on people and nature (February 17, 2022) February 17, 2022 https://phys.org/news/2022-02-negative-impacts-amazon-hydropower Obtained from -expansion.html

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