Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 23, pp 13636–13641 | Cite as

Carbon emission from global hydroelectric reservoirs revisited

Short Research and Discussion Article


Substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from hydropower reservoirs have been of great concerns recently, yet the significant carbon emitters of drawdown area and reservoir downstream (including spillways and turbines as well as river reaches below dams) have not been included in global carbon budget. Here, we revisit GHG emission from hydropower reservoirs by considering reservoir surface area, drawdown zone and reservoir downstream. Our estimates demonstrate around 301.3 Tg carbon dioxide (CO2)/year and 18.7 Tg methane (CH4)/year from global hydroelectric reservoirs, which are much higher than recent observations. The sum of drawdown and downstream emission, which is generally overlooked, represents 42 % CO2 and 67 % CH4 of the total emissions from hydropower reservoirs. Accordingly, the global average emissions from hydropower are estimated to be 92 g CO2/kWh and 5.7 g CH4/kWh. Nonetheless, global hydroelectricity could currently reduce approximate 2,351 Tg CO2eq/year with respect to fuel fossil plant alternative. The new findings show a substantial revision of carbon emission from the global hydropower reservoirs.


Greenhouse gases (GHGs) CO2 Methane Hydropower reservoir Carbon cycling 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical GardenThe Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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