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Ecology of fishes in a high-latitude, turbid river with implications for the impacts of hydrokinetic devices

Abstract

Hydrokinetic devices generate electricity by capturing kinetic energy from flowing water as it moves across or through a rotor, without impounding or diverting the water source. The Tanana River in Alaska, a turbid glacial system, has been selected as a pilot location to evaluate the effects of such a device on fish communities that are highly valued by subsistence, sport, and commercial users. The basic ecology and habitat use of fishes in turbid glacial systems are poorly understood; therefore it is necessary to study the species composition of the fish community and the spatial and temporal patterns of mainstem river use by these fishes to evaluate impacts of a hydrokinetic device. In this document, we provide an overview of existing knowledge of fish ecology in the Tanana River and impacts of hydrokinetic devices on fishes in other river systems. Seventeen fish species are known to inhabit the Tanana River and several may utilize the deepest and fastest section of the channel, the probable deployment location for the hydrokinetic device, as a seasonal migration corridor. Previous studies in clearwater river systems indicate that mortality and injury rates from turbine passage are low. However, the results from these studies may not apply to the Tanana River because of its distinctive physical properties. To rectify this shortcoming, a conceptual framework for a comprehensive fish ecology study is recommended to determine the impacts of hydrokinetic devices on fishes in turbid, glacial rivers.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to J. Johnson for his tireless efforts on hydrokinetics coordination, monitoring and research in Alaska. This review was supported by funding from the Alaska Energy Authority.

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Correspondence to Andrew C. Seitz.

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Seitz, A.C., Moerlein, K., Evans, M.D. et al. Ecology of fishes in a high-latitude, turbid river with implications for the impacts of hydrokinetic devices. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 21, 481–496 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-011-9200-3

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Keywords

  • Hydrokinetics
  • Tanana river
  • Turbine
  • Glacial river
  • Salmonid
  • Smolts