Environmental Management

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 656–668 | Cite as

A Model of Navigation-Induced Currents in Inland Waterways and Implications for Juvenile Fish Displacement

  • Christian WolterEmail author
  • Robert Arlinghaus
  • Alexander Sukhodolov
  • Christof Engelhardt


The likely extension of commercial inland navigation in the future could increase hazards directly impacting on the nurseries of freshwater fish, especially for smaller individuals with limited swimming abilities. One limitation of the evaluation of inland navigation on fish assemblages is the lack of suitable hydraulic models. This article presents a hydraulic model to assess the increase of navigation-induced physical forces due to higher vessel speed, length, and drought in a low-flowing waterway related to maximum swimming performance of fish to (1) foresee hazards of enhancement of inland navigation, (2) derive construction measures to minimize the hydraulic impact on small fish, and (3) improve fish recruitment in waterways.

The derived model computed current velocities induced by passing commercial vessels in inland waterways experimentally verified and parameterized in a German lowland waterway. Results were linked with a model of maximum fish swimming performance to elucidate consequences for freshwater fish populations. The absolute magnitude of navigation-induced current limits the availability of littoral habitats for small fish. Typical navigation-induced current velocities of 0.7–1 m/s in the straight reaches of waterways will be maintained by fish longer than 42 mm only. Smaller juveniles unable to withstand those currents could become washed out, injured, or displaced. In contrast, in small local bays, the navigation-induced current declined significantly. According to our model, in a 20-m extended bay, the return current drops below 0.11 m/s, corresponding to the maximum swimming speed of a 9-mm-long fish. Thus, enhancing shoreline development by connecting oxbows, tributaries, and especially by purpose-built bays limits the impact on fish recruitment without restricting navigation resulting in more precautionary and sustainable inland navigation.

Inland navigation Navigation impacts Navigation-induced habitat bottleneck Hydraulic forces Critical flow velocity Fish larvae 


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We thank Heiner Bungartz and Werner Sauer for their assistance in field work. Piotr Parasiewicz from Cornell University, Fritz Schiemer from the University of Vienna, and one anonymous reviewer provided excellent comments on the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Wolter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Arlinghaus
    • 1
  • Alexander Sukhodolov
    • 2
  • Christof Engelhardt
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of EcohydrologyLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany

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