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Optimising river infrastructure placement and mitigation decisions

Ioannidou, Christina (2017) Optimising river infrastructure placement and mitigation decisions. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:66138)

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Abstract

We address the problem of locating small hydropower dams in an environmentally friendly manner. We propose the use of a multi-objective optimization model to maximize total hydropower production, while limiting negative impacts on river connectivity. Critically, we consider the so called "backwater effects" that dams have on power generation at nearby upstream sites via changes in water surface profiles. We further account for the likelihood that migratory fish and other aquatic species can successfully pass hydropower dams and other artificial/natural barriers and how this is influenced by backwater effects. Although naturally represented in nonlinear form, we manage through a series of linearization steps to formulate a mixed integer linear programing model. We illustrate the utility of our proposed framework using a case study from England and Wales. Interestingly, we show that for England and Wales, a region heavily impacted by a large number of existing river barriers, installation of small hydropower dams fitted with even moderately effective fish passes can, in fact, create a win-win situation that results in increased hydropower and improved river connectivity.

Finally, habitat fragmentation is a leading threat to global biodiversity. Restoring habitat connectivity, especially in freshwater systems, is considered essential in improving ecosystem function and health. Various studies have looked at cost effectively prioritizing river barrier mitigation decisions. In none of these, however, has the importance of accounting for the potential presence of unknown or "hidden" barriers been considered. In this study, we propose a novel optimization based approach that accounts for hidden barrier uncertainty in river connectivity restoration planning and apply it in a case study of the US state of Maine. We find that ignoring hidden barriers leads to a dramatic reduction in anticipated accessible habitat gains. Using a conventional prioritization approach, habitat gains are on average 60% lower than expected across a range of budgets when there are just 10% additional but unknown barriers. More importantly our results show that anticipating for hidden barriers can improve potential gains in accessible habitat in excess of 110% when the budget is low and the number of hidden barriers comparatively large. Finally, we find that solutions optimized for an intermediate number of unknown barriers perform well regardless of the actual number of hidden barriers. In other words, we can build-in robustness into the barrier removal planning framework. Dealing with the hidden elephant in the room could lead to a far more realistic approach of the habitat connectivity restoration issue.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: O'Hanley, Jesse
Thesis advisor: Scappara, Maria Paola
Uncontrolled keywords: optimisation, fish passage barriers, river connectivity, hydropower, fish population dynamics, fish dispersal dynamics, hidden barriers
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Kent Business School (do not use)
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2018 10:30 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:53 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/66138 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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