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A method for the assessment of long-term changes in carbon stock by construction of a hydropower reservoir

  • Julio Werner Yoshioka Bernardo
  • Michael Mannich
  • Stephan Hilgert
  • Cristovão Vicente Scapulatempo Fernandes
  • Tobias Bleninger

DOI: 10.1007/s13280-016-0874-6

Cite this article as:
Bernardo, J.W.Y., Mannich, M., Hilgert, S. et al. Ambio (2017). doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0874-6


Sustainability of hydropower reservoirs has been questioned since the detection of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which are mainly composed of carbon dioxide and methane. A method to assess the impact on the carbon cycle caused by the transition from a natural river system into a reservoir is presented and discussed. The method evaluates the long term changes in carbon stock instead of the current approach of monitoring and integrating continuous short term fluxes. A case study was conducted in a subtropical reservoir in Brazil, showing that the carbon content within the reservoir exceeds that of the previous landuse. The average carbon sequestration over 43 years since damming was 895 mg C m\(^{-2}\mathrm{{day}}^{-1}\) and found to be mainly due to storage of carbon in sediments. These results demonstrate that reservoirs have two opposite effects on the balance of GHGs. By storing organic C in sediments, reservoirs are an important carbon sink. On the other hand, reservoirs increase the flux of methane into the atmosphere. If the sediments of reservoirs could be used for long term C storage, reservoirs might have a positive effect on the balance of GHGs.


Carbon cycle Fluxes Sedimentation Sequestration 

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dpto. de Hidraulica e Saneamento (DHS)Univ. Federal do Paraná (UFPR)CuritibaBrazil
  2. 2.Dpto. de Engenharia Ambiental (DEA)Univ. Federal do Paraná (UFPR)CuritibaBrazil
  3. 3.Institute for Water and River Basin ManagementKarlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany

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