Dams in the upper Mekong river transform nutrient release downstream

Hydropower is the world’s largest source of energy generation. It is commonly assumed that hydropower reservoirs retain nutrients, and this nutrient reduction significantly reduces primary productivity, fishery catches and food security downstream. An international research team, including Prof. Jef Huisman from the University of Amsterdam, now demonstrates that hydropower reservoirs in the upper Mekong River in China do not retain nutrients, but transform their bioavailability downstream. These results are recently published in the scientific journal National Science Review.

The number of hydropower dams has increased dramatically in the last 100 years for energy supply, climate change mitigation, and economic development. However, recent studies have overwhelmingly stressed the negative consequences of dam construction, such as the retainment of nutrients. If nutrients are retained by upstream dams, this may reduce ecosystem productivity and, hence, fisheries downstream.

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Jef Huisman