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Hydropower-related mortality and behaviour of Atlantic salmon smolts in the River Sieg, a German tributary to the Rhine

Havn, Torgeir B., Thorstad, Eva B., Teichert, Maxim A. K., Sæther, Stein A., Heermann, Lisa, Hedger, Richard D., Tambets, Meelis, Diserud, Ola H., Borcherding, Jost, Økland, Finn
Hydrobiologia 2018 v.805 no.1 pp. 273-290
Salmo salar, mortality, power plants, predation, radio frequency identification, risk, rivers, smolts, turbines, water power
We studied downstream migration of 256 radio-tagged Atlantic salmon smolts passing a low-head power station where technical facilities have been improved to allow safe migration via several bypass routes. Extra mortality was 7 and 17% (two years) in the power station reservoir, and a minimum of 10 and 13% at the power station compared to in a control stretch. The majority of the smolts followed the main flow at the power station, towards the turbines. Sloped bar racks with 10 mm bar spacing hindered smolts from entering the turbines, hence there was no turbine mortality. Smolts used surface openings in the racks, which directed them to a bypass route outside the turbines. The extra mortality in the reservoir and at the power station was related to physical injuries in bypass routes and to predation. The mortality risk in the reservoir and at the power station decreased with increasing migration speed. Migration speeds increased with water discharge. Migration was slower when the smolts passed the power station than on other stretches. This study shows that hydropower regulation caused elevated mortality and delays for downstream migrating fish, even with improved technical facilities to reduce mortality.