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Small artificial impoundments have big implications for hydrology and freshwater biodiversity

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-06-22, 23:53 authored by R Morden, A Horne, Nick BondNick Bond, R Nathan, JD 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 (SAIs) concentrated in headwater streams have rarely been acknowledged. Using the Murray Darling River basin (Australia) and the Arkansas River basin (US) as case studies, we examined the hydrological impacts of SAIs. The extent of their influence is considerable, altering hydrology in 280–380% more waterways as compared to major dams. 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.


Y RM was funded by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA) award (DE180100550). AH was funded through an ARC DECRA award (DE180100550).


Publication Date



Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment






6p. (p. 141-146)





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