Freeman M.C.

A method to assess longitudinal riverine connectivity in tropical streams dominated by migratory biota

Crook, Kelly E.; Pringle, Catherine M.; Freeman, Mary C. 2009. A method to assess longitudinal riverine connectivity in tropical streams dominated by migratory data. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 19: 714-723.

1. One way in which dams affect ecosystem function is by altering the distribution and abundance of aquatic species. 2. Previous studies indicate that migratory shrimps have significant effects on ecosystem processes in Puerto Rican streams, but are vulnerable to impediments to upstream or downstream passage, such as dams and associated water intakes where stream water is withdrawn for human water supplies. Ecological effects of dams and water withdrawals from streams depend on spatial context and temporal variability of flow in relation to the amount of water withdrawn. 3. This paper presents a conceptual model for estimating the probability that an individual shrimp is able to migrate from a stream’s headwaters to the estuary as a larva, and then return to the headwaters as a juvenile, given a set of dams and water withdrawals in the stream network. The model is applied to flow and withdrawal data for a set of dams and water withdrawals in the Caribbean National Forest (CNF) in Puerto Rico. 4. The index of longitudinal riverine connectivity (ILRC), is used to classify 17 water intakes in streams draining the CNF as having low, moderate, or high connectivity in terms of shrimp migration in both directions. An in-depth comparison of two streams showed that the stream characterized by higher water withdrawal had low connectivity, even during wet periods. Severity of effects is illustrated by a drought year, where the most downstream intake caused 100% larval shrimp mortality 78% of the year. 5. The ranking system provided by the index can be used as a tool for conservation ecologists and water resource managers to evaluate the relative vulnerability of migratory biota in streams, across different scales (reach-network), to seasonally low flows and extended drought. This information can be used to help evaluate the environmental tradeoffs of future water withdrawals.


Anderson EP, Freeman MC, Pringle CM. 2006a. Ecological consequences of hydropower development in Central America: impacts of small
dams and water diversion on neotropical stream fish assemblages. River Research and Applications 22: 397–411.

Small dams for hydropower have caused widespread alteration of Central American rivers, yet much of recent development has gone undocumented by scientists and conservationists. We examined the ecological effects of a small hydropower plant (Don˜a Julia Hydroelectric Center) on two low-order streams (the Puerto Viejo River and Quebradon stream) draining a mountainous area of Costa Rica. Operation of the Don˜a Julia plant has dewatered these streams, reducing discharge to 10% of average annual flow. This study compared fish assemblage composition and aquatic habitat upstream and downstream of diversion dams on two streams and along a 4 km dewatered reach of the Puerto Viejo River in an attempt to evaluate current instream flow recommendations for regulated Costa Rican streams. Our results indicated that fish assemblages directly upstream and downstream of the dam on the third order Puerto Viejo River were dissimilar, suggesting that the small dam (<15m high) hindered movement of fishes. Along the 4 km dewatered reach of the Puerto Viejo River, species count increased with downstream distance from the dam. However, estimated species richness and overall fish abundance were not significantly correlated with downstream distance from the dam. Our results suggested that effects of stream dewatering may be most pronounced for a subset of species with more complex reproductive requirements, classified as equilibrium-type species based on their life-history. In the absence of changes to current operations, we expect that fish assemblages in the Puerto Viejo River will be increasingly dominated by opportunistic-type, colonizing fish species. Operations of many other small hydropower plants in Costa Rica and other parts of Central America mirror those of Don˜a Julia; the methods and results of this study may be applicable to some of those projects. Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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