Hydropower projects are rapidly altering the Andean-Amazon region, according to new research by FIU Institute of Water and Environment, published this week in Science Advances.
The research team studied 302 dams, including 160 proposed dams for rivers draining Andean headwaters of the Amazon. They have compiled a comprehensive database that can show the overall impact of hydropower development on the region. The possible impacts of news dams include loss in river connectivity, impact on fish populations, and permanent alteration of channels and floodplains.
Commenting on the project, research team leader, professor Elizabeth Anderson from FIU, said, “I hope that by showing the regional trends and that there is widespread river alteration happening, this research can lead to more coordinated development and help to highlight the importance of keeping some rivers free-flowing in the region.”
The research involved 15 institutions from eight countries, conservation organizations, and local governments. The international collaboration for the project has resulted in a new initiative, Rios Vivos Andinos, the purpose of which is to facilitate further examination of freshwater biodiversity, river flows, and human well-being.