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NSERC's HydroNet (2010 - 2015)

HydroNetChallenge

The general objective of NSERC’s HydroNet is to promote sustainable hydropower in Canada via a better understanding of the effects of hydroelectric operations on aquatic ecosystems. Through coordinated national efforts, NSERC’s HydroNet will supply new knowledge about the effects of hydropower on abiotic and biotic processes. Science-based practical solutions will provide industry and government resource managers with new tools to assess, mitigate, and minimize potential impacts on aquatic ecosystems, to improve the decision-making process associated with hydropower operations, and to reduce conflict among stakeholders.

Structures and mode of operation

NSERC’s HydroNet is defined as a collaborative national research network that involves academic, governmental, and industrial partners. Echoes of this definition are found throughout the decisional (Board of Directors), operational (Strategic/Research Management and Project Committees), and advisory (Science Advisory Committee) structures of the network. The mode of operation of NSERC’s HydroNet has been developed to foster collaborative multi-stakeholder partnerships. Hydroelectric companies and governmental agencies have provided research priorities that have served as a canvas from which the Research Management Committee has developed HydroNet’s research program. Feedback between academia, industry, and government has been a continuous process during the past three years, is ongoing, and will remain a key asset of the network in future years. The feedback mechanism with partners, developed and implemented by the Research Management Committee, has and will continue to be implemented to maximise the functionality of the interactions among partners and the applicability of the research conducted by the network for partners.

Postal Address

Université de Montréal
Département de sciences biologiques
Local : F-223
Pavillon Marie-Victorin
90, avenue Vincent-d’Indy
Montréal, QC H2V 2S9

Lead researchers

Daniel Boisclair, Université de Montréal
Pierre Legendre, Université de Montréal
Joseph Rasmussen, University of Lethbridge
Michel Lapointe, McGill University
Brett Eaton, University of British-Columbia
Michael Power, University of Waterloo
Richard Cunjak, University of New-Brunswick and Canadian Rivers Institute
Steven Cooke, Carleton University
Jeffrey Dawson, Carleton University
David Zhu, University of Alberta
Faye Hicks, University of Alberta
Mark Loewen, University of Alberta
André St-Hilaire, INRS-ETE
Normand Bergeron, INRS-ETE
George Rose, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Collaborators

Daniel Caissie, DFO-MPO Moncton
Keith Clarke, DFO-MPO Newfoundland-Labrador
Robert Randall, DFO-MPO Central-Arctic
Karen Smokorowski, DFO-MPO CHIF-CHIP
David Patterson, DFO-MPO Pacific
Paul Higgins, BC Hydro
Alf Leake, BC Hydro
Brent Sellars, Nalcor
Gary Swanson, Manitoba Hydro

Research Objectives

The NSERC’s HydroNet research program includes projects supported by the Strategic Network and the Collaborative Research and Development Grant programs:

The Strategic Network Grant research program of NSERC’s HydroNet consists of four components:

  1. The objectives of the Productive Capacity of Fish Habitats in Rivers (Lead: Daniel Boisclair, Université de Montréal; Collaborators: Pierre Legendre, Université de Montréal; Keith Clarke, DFO-Newfoundland-Labrador; Karen Smokorowski, DFO-Sault-Sainte-Marie; Robert Randall, DFO-Burlington) component are:
    • to provide metrics of productive capacity of fish habitats (PCFH; by species and life-stages) for a series of riverine ecosystems (this data will form the basis for the analysis of the relationships between PCFH and chemical, physical, and biological drivers for the complete network);
    • to develop Habitat Quality Models (HQM) for all fish species and life-stages of the study sites, and to assess the relative role of local, contextual, and ecosystemic environmental conditions on predictions made by HQM;
    • to assess the existence of relationships between phenotypic traits of fish, metrics of PCFH, and the environmental conditions used by different combinations of fish species and life-stages; and
    • to test the hypothesis that HQM developed at different sites may vary with fish density.

  2. The objectives of the Chemical Drivers of the Productive Capacity of Fish Habitats (Lead: Joseph Rasmussen, University of Lethbridge; Collaborator: Daniel Boisclair, Université de Montréal) component are:
    • to establish a relationship between PCFH and the nutrient regime of ecosystems (total phosphorus and total nitrogen concentrations); and
    • to determine whether the nutrient regime of systems will provide a unifying estimate of the potential PCFH of an aquatic ecosystem (across different systems).

  3. The objectives of the Physical Drivers of the Productive Capacity of Fish Habitats component are to examine:
    • the flow regime of natural versus regulated rivers (Lead: Michel Lapointe, McGill University);
    • the effects of dams on the thermal regime of rivers (Lead: André St-Hilaire, INRS-ETE; Collaborators: Michel Lapointe, McGill University; Normand Bergeron, INRS-ETE; Daniel Caissie, DFO Moncton);
    • the effects of changes to flow and sediment regimes caused by dams on the physical structure of downstream river and floodplain habitats (Lead: Michel Lapointe, McGill University; Collaborator: Brett Eaton, UBC); and
    • the winter regime of rivers, so as to identify those environmental stressors that directly influence fish habitats and PCFH (Leads: Richard Cunjak, UNB-CRI; Faye Hicks, University of Alberta).

  4. The objectives of Biological Drivers of Productive Capacity component are:
    • to quantify the relationship between egg survival of spawning fishes and the environmental attributes associated with flow regulation from hydroelectric activities in rivers (Lead: Richard Cunjak, UNB-CRI; Collaborator: Keith Clarke, DFO-Newfoundland-Labrador);
    • to establish how PCFH is influenced by the number of species present in a community, how this effect differs across geographic regions, and how it affects the trophic relationships within the community (Lead: Joseph Rasmussen, University of Lethbridge; Collaborator: Daniel Boisclair, Université de Montréal);
    • to determine the concordance between changes in downstream thermal regimes and the consequences for fish growth (Lead: Michael Power, University of Waterloo; Collaborator: Robert Randall, DFO-Central-Arctic); and
    • to evaluate the hydraulic and biological conditions that favour or deter the upstream passage of sturgeon at the Vianney-Legendre Fishway (Quebec), and to integrate such biological and hydraulic knowledge to serve as a model for future fish passage research on a range of species across Canada (Lead: Steven Cooke, Carleton University; Collaborators: David Zhu, University of Alberta; Alf Leake, BC Hydro; Paul Higgins, BC Hydro).

The Collaborative Research and Development Grant research program of NSERC’s HydroNet has two components:

  1. Mesoscale modeling of the productive capacity of fish habitats in lakes and reservoirs; and
  2. Predicting the entrainment risk of fish in hydropower reservoirs relative to generation operations by combining behavioural ecology and hydraulic engineering.

The objectives of the component Mesoscale modeling of the productive capacity of fish habitats in lakes and reservoirs are:

  • to contribute to the development of approaches to map physical conditions with a precision and a frequency sufficient to study the interactions between metrics of PCFH and physical conditions at the scale of habitat patches in complete aquatic ecosystems (Leads: George Rose, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Normand Bergeron, INRS-ETE; Collaborators: Michel Lapointe, McGill University);
  • to develop and compare HQM describing the relationship that may exist between different metrics of PCFH and environmental conditions at the scale of habitat patches for combinations of species and life-stages in different lakes and reservoirs (Lead: Daniel Boisclair, Université de Montréal; Collaborators: Keith Clarke, DFO-Newfoundland-Labrador; George Rose, Memorial University; Pierre Legendre, Université de Montréal; Robert Randall, DFO-Burlington; Karen Smokorowski, DFO-Sault-Sainte-Marie ); and
  • to identify the sampling strategy that permits the estimation and the modeling of metrics of PCFH that correlate best with fish production (Lead: Daniel Boisclair, Université de Montréal; Collaborators: Robert Randall, DFO-Burlington; Karen Smokorowski, DFO-Sault-Sainte-Marie ).

The objectives of the component Predicting the entrainment risk of fish in hydropower reservoirs relative to generation operations by combining behavioural ecology and hydraulic engineering are:

  • to generalize the knowledge of intake-induced flow hydraulics for different sites, under various temperature stratification regimes and reservoir levels, and different hydropower operations (Lead: David Zhu, University of Alberta; Collaborators: David Patterson, DFO-Pacific; Alf Leake, BC Hydro; Paul Higgins, BC Hydro); and
  • to determine the biotic characteristics that influence the entrainment risk of several key fish species (Leads: Steven Cooke, Carleton University; Michael Power, University of Waterloo; Collaborators: Alf Leake, BC Hydro; Paul Higgins, BC Hydro).

Sub-objectives of this second objective are:

  • to evaluate the spatial ecology of adult bull trout from different spawning tributaries to identify the extent to which they encounter the Mica forebay region;
  • to document the thermal habitat use and vertical distribution of burbot in the reservoir including in the vicinity of the forebay;
  • to provide a detailed understanding of bull trout, kokanne, and burbot behaviour in the immediate vicinity of the Mica forebay relative to dam operations to quantify and describe patterns of entrainment;
  • to quantify survival and behaviour of tagged bull trout, burbot, and kokanee that are entrained and pass through the turbines to the river below; and
  • to develop a seasonal model of entrainment risk for adult bull trout, burbot, and kokanee that could serve as a model for future entrainment risk assessments in Canada and beyond.
  • to determine how physical mitigation alternatives (such as barrier nets, thermal curtains, etc.) affect upstream flow fields and how various mitigation options perform under various hydraulic and operation conditions (Leads: David Zhu, University of Alberta; Steven Cooke, Carleton University; Michael Power, University of Waterloo; Collaborators: David Patterson, DFO-Pacific; Alf Leake, BC Hydro; Paul Higgins, BC Hydro).

Outcomes

NSERC’s HydroNet will contribute to:

  • the improvement of approaches to estimate and model physical drivers of the productive capacity of fish habitats;
  • the definition of standardized protocols capable of estimating the productive capacity of fish habitats;
  • the identification of the relative importance of chemical, physical, and biological drivers of the productive capacity of fish habitats, and of large-scale (ecosystemic) and small-scale (habitat patches) environmental conditions on this variable;
  • the acquisition of new knowledge to assess and minimize the effect of hydropower on key biological processes (e.g., effect of flow modifications on egg survival, relationship between environmental conditions affected by hydropower and fish growth, effect of reservoir management on fish entrainment in turbines);
  • the comparison of the productive capacity of fish habitats and its environmental determinants over a range of ecosystems (regulated and unregulated) for which PCFH must be estimated to assess the effect of hydropower on fish; and
  • the development of modeling approaches that will facilitate the routine estimation of the effect of hydropower on the productive capacity of fish habitats.

Contacts

Shannon O’Connor
Network Manager
NSERC’s HydroNet
E-mail: shannon.oconnor@umontreal.ca
Tel.: 514-343-6111 ext: 1097
Network Web site: This link will take you to another Web site www.hydronet.umontreal.ca

Daniel Boisclair
Scientific Director
NSERC’s HydroNet
E-mail: daniel.boisclair@umontreal.ca
Tel.: 514-343-6762
Fax: 514-343-2293


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