Small hydropower plants divert part of the water from wide and physically complex stream channels with active hyporheic areas to narrow and hydraulically simple concrete canals, and thus, might affect nutrient dynamics. We compared nutrient uptake in diversion canals and in stream channels in the Leitzaran Stream (Basque Country, northern Spain). We predicted that simple morphology in diversion canals will result in lower nutrient uptake in canals than in stream channels. Periphytic chlorophyll and biomass did not differ significantly between reach types. Water was significantly deeper and faster in canals than in stream channels, but the transient storage zone did not differ significantly between reach types. There were no significant differences between uptake length for neither phosphate nor ammonium between reach types. Uptake length in both stream channels and diversion canals decreased with discharge, in a pattern similar to that previously described for pristine rivers across the world. Uptake velocity and uptake rate for phosphate did not differ significantly between reach types, but in the case of ammonium both retention metrics were significantly larger in the diversion canals. Results suggest that although hydropower schemes have minor effects on nutrient retention, these depend on the proportion of flow diverted.
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This research has been funded by the Spanish Department of Science and Technology, the University of the Basque Country, and the European Regional Development Fund, through projects 9/UPV00118.310-14476/2002 and BOS2003-04466. The authors want to thank Félix Izco and Patxi Tamés (Province Government of Guipuscoa), for continuous support. Oihana Izagirre did this study, thanks to a pre-doctoral grant by the Basque Government.
Guest editors: A. Elosegi, M. Mutz & H. Piégay / Form and function: channel form, hydraulic integrity, and river ecosystem functioning
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Izagirre, O., Argerich, A., Martí, E. et al. Nutrient uptake in a stream affected by hydropower plants: comparison between stream channels and diversion canals. Hydrobiologia 712, 105–116 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1354-z