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Thermal habitat quality of aquatic organisms near power plant discharges: potential exacerbating effects of climate warming

Coulter, D. P., Sepúlveda, M. S., Troy, C. D., Höök, T. O.
Fisheries management and ecology 2014 v.21 no.3 pp. 196-210
Dreissena polymorpha, Micropterus dolomieu, Sander vitreus, adverse effects, crayfish, energy, global warming, habitats, power plants, summer, surface water, temporal variation, water temperature, winter, Ohio River, United States
Water temperature strongly affects aquatic ectotherms, as even slight temperature changes can have dramatic effects on physiological rates. Water bodies receiving industrial thermal discharges can undergo dramatic spatial and temporal changes in water temperature. To quantify effects on aquatic ectotherms, thermal habitat quality (bioenergetic growth rate potential; GRP) for zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha (Pallas), rusty crayfish, Orconectes rusticus (Girard), walleye, Sander vitreus (Mitchill) and smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu (Lacepède) was estimated near two power plant thermal discharges on the Ohio River, USA, from 2010 to 2012 using bioenergetics models. These results were then compared with GRP under increased base temperatures representing climate warming. Growth rate potential for all species was low near the discharges during summer and highest in winter, with increasing prey consumption minimising the negative effects of increased temperatures. In their immediate vicinity, thermal discharges had a more adverse effect on GRP than plausible climate warming but primarily affected GRP over a small spatial area, particularly within 400 m downstream from the power plants. Examining thermal habitat suitability will become increasingly important as rising energy demand and climate change collectively affect aquatic organisms and their habitats.