Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 153–167 | Cite as

A fish-eye view of riverine hydropower systems: the current understanding of the biological response to turbine passage

  • Brenda M. Pracheil
  • C. R. DeRolph
  • M. P. Schramm
  • M. S. Bevelhimer


One-way connectivity maintained by fish passing through hydropower turbines in fragmented rivers can be important to population dynamics, but can also introduce a new and significant source of mortality. Sources of mortality during turbine passage can come from several sources including blade strike, shear forces, cavitation, or pressure decreases and parsing the contributions of these individual forces is important for advancing and deploying turbines that minimize these impacts to fishes. We used a national hydropower database and conducted a systematic review of the literature to accomplish three goals: (1) report on the spatial distribution of turbine types and generation capacities in the USA, (2) determine fish mortality rates among turbine types and fish species and (3) examine relationships between physical forces similar to those encountered during fish turbine passage and fish injury and mortality. We found that while Francis turbines generate 56 % of all US hydropower and have the highest associated fish mortality of any turbine type, these turbines are proportionally understudied compared to less-common and less injury-associated Kaplan turbines, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. While juvenile salmonid species in actual or simulated Kaplan turbine conditions were the most commonly studied, the highest mortality rates were reported from percid fishes passing through Francis turbines. Future studies should focus on understanding which species are most at-risk to turbine passage injury and mortality and, subsequently, increasing the diversity of taxonomy and turbine types in evaluations of turbine injury and mortality.


Turbine mortality Barotrauma Hydropower River Fish Fish passage 



We thank Alison Colotelo and Ryan McManamay for comments on this manuscript. This study was funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, Wind and Water Power Technologies Program through Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect those of their employers.

Supplementary material

11160_2015_9416_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (199 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 199 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Environmental Sciences DivisionOak RidgeUSA

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