Effectiveness of artificial floods for benthic community recovery after sediment flushing from a dam

  • Alberto DorettoEmail author
  • Tiziano Bo
  • Francesca Bona
  • Mattia Apostolo
  • Davide Bonetto
  • Stefano Fenoglio


The number of dams is predicted to increase worldwide under the current global change scenario. A major environmental problem associated with dams is the release of large quantities of fine sediment downstream. Therefore, future studies in river conservation will largely be focused on the management of sediments trapped by reservoirs. The aim of this study was to investigate the downstream ecological impacts of sediment flushing from a dam and the effectiveness of artificial flash floods as a recovery strategy. Artificial flash floods have often been employed to remove large amounts of sediment from riverbeds, but their importance in improving the biological quality of lotic environments is almost unknown. We carried out a series of quantitative macroinvertebrate samplings over a 2-year period that started before sediment release and included the artificial flushing events. We characterized the macroinvertebrate community in its structural and functional aspects and tested the performance of two biomonitoring indexes, comparing their diagnostic ability. Our results demonstrated that sediment flushing significantly altered the structure and composition of benthic communities for more than 1 year. Flash floods exacerbated the overall biological quality, but we believe that this treatment was useful because, by removing large amounts of sediment, the biological recovery process was accelerated. Finally, regarding the water quality assessment, we found that the biomonitoring index for siltation, composed of a selection of taxonomical and functional metrics, was more reliable than the generic one.


Macroinvertebrates Siltation Dam Multi-metric index Alpine stream Restoration 



The authors wish to thank AECOM and Enel Green Power for their collaboration and sharing of data about the sedimentation event. We are very grateful to Elena Piano and Radhika Srinivasan for their assistance during data analysis and linguistic revision, respectively. We would also like to acknowledge the Province of Cuneo (Settore Presidio del Territorio-Ufficio Polizia Locale Faunistico Ambientale) for their useful assistance. This work was supported by “Italian Mountain Lab” and Programme ALCOTRA FR-IT 201Plan 2014-2020 TERRES MONVISO.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DBIOSUniversity of TorinoTorinoItaly
  2. 2.Centro per lo Studio dei Fiumi Alpini (ALPSTREAM - Alpine Stream Research Center)OstanaItaly
  3. 3.NaturastaffMongardinoItaly
  4. 4.Settore Presidio del Territorio-Ufficio Polizia Locale Faunistico AmbientaleCuneoItaly
  5. 5.DISITUniversity of Piemonte OrientaleAlessandriaItaly

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