When “safe” dams kill: Analyzing combination of impacts of overflow dams on the migration of silver eels

TitleWhen “safe” dams kill: Analyzing combination of impacts of overflow dams on the migration of silver eels
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsTrancart, T, Carpentier, A, Acou, A, Charrier, F, Mazel, V, Danet, V, Feunteun, E
JournalEcological Engineering
KeywordsAcoustic telemetry, Migration, mortality, Non-powered dams, Silver eels, Turbines drinking water intake

1. The drastic decline in European eel Anguilla anguilla stock is now widely recognized. However, while various causes for this decline have been identified, the relative importance of each cause remains unclear.

2. During the catadromous migration of silver eels, the negative impact of dams is frequently highlighted, but mainly for powered dams (with turbines) or where connectivity is completely ruptured. Mechanical impact due to turbine blades is often considered the most important cause of mortality of silver eels during downstream migration. Consequently, non-powered dams equipped with spillways are often considered safe for the passage of migrating silver eels.

3. We hypothesized that, to understand the negative impacts of dams, a much wider context must be considered than turbine mortality alone. Using an acoustic telemetry survey of silver eels, we demonstrated the negative effects of non-powered dams on downstream migration.

4. Five main impacts on eel populations were highlighted: (i) the attenuation or loss of triggering factors, leading to an absence of or delay in migration; (ii) extra delays and extra distances travelled when crossing the dam; (iii) extra energetic costs of the additional distance travelled as result of exploring the dam and the reservoir to find other escape passages; (iv) the selection of a more risky behavioral phenotype, i.e., bold eels; and (v) direct blocking once migration has started. Mortality was evaluated as a supplementary impact. Some of these effects (attenuation of triggers, extra delays to cross the dam) might be more important than the same effect from powered dams, probably due to the constant high water discharge required for turbines that facilitate the passage of eels.

5. As these “safe” dams are very widespread, they must be considered a potential threat to effective eel conservation.

Catégorie HCERES
ACL - Peer-reviewed articles
Publication coopération et recherche SUD