Small artificial impoundments have big implications for hydrology and freshwater biodiversity

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Robert Morden, Avril Horne, Nicholas Bond, Rory Nathan, Julian Olden


Headwater streams are critical for freshwater ecosystems. Global and continental studies consistently show major dams as dominant sources of hydrological stress threatening biodiversity in the world’s major rivers, but cumulative impacts from small artificial impoundments concentrated in headwater streams have rarely been acknowledged. Using the Murray Darling River basin (Australia)
and the Arkansas River basin (USA) as case studies, we examine the hydrological impact of small artificial impoundments. The extent of their influence is significant, altering hydrology in 280 - 380% more waterways when compared to major dams alone. Hydrological impacts are concentrated in smaller streams (catchment area < 100 km2), raising concerns that the often diverse and highly endemic biota found in these systems may be under threat. Adjusting existing biodiversity planning and management approaches to address the cumulative effects of many small and widely distributed artificial impoundments presents a rapidly emerging challenge for ecologically sustainable water management.



Biodiversity, Civil and Environmental Engineering


Farm dams, farm ponds, small waterbodies, headwater streams, hydrological stress, freshwater biodiversity, unregul, unregulated rivers, farm ponds, small waterbodies, headwater streams, hydrological stress, freshwater biodiversity


Published: 2021-12-07 15:39


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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