Humans have been altering natural waterways for centuries, but only in the last several decades have dams raised ecological concerns. N. LeRoy Poff, professor of biology at Colorado State University, studies the ecological impact to rivers from human-caused changes, such as dam building, and how these modified river systems can be managed for resilience. In a Perspective piece in the journal Science, Poff writes on the state of research in sustainable dam design.
Writing with co-author Julian Olden of the University of Washington, Poff cites a new study that could provide innovative solutions to preserving river flow in the Mekong basin of Southeast Asia, where several new dams are being proposed. The ASU researchers report a spectral analysis tool that identifies dominant signals in hydrology time series. These signals predict the fisheries’ production from year to year, opening possibilities to new flow management strategies.
Poff and Olden contend that balancing economic, social and ecological needs as dams come online in developing countries requires technological solutions like the ones described by the ASU researchers.