Highly productive floodplain rivers in Brazil and elsewhere provide livelihood and recreational fishing for millions of people around the world, but damming and controlled water discharge are a threat to these valuable ecosystems. Supplemental water releases (SWRs) at a dam are increasingly used for restoring fisheries productivity in many floodplain rivers. We proposed a conceptual model for a hypothetical water release to enhance fisheries using Tre??s Marias Reservoir (TMR) on the Sa??o Francisco River (SFR), Brazil. The information needed by the model follows: (i) Biologically, what is the best release date? (ii) How much water will be released? (iii) What is the pattern of impoundment and how much impounded water will be released? (iv) What is the lost revenue to the power plant associated with SWR? (v) What is the relationship between river discharge and the area of floodplain that is flooded? (vi) What is the relationship between SWR and fisheries value? Ichthyoplankton studies in the SFR showed a clear positive relationship between fish density and water level (WL). While the relationship between WL and floodplain area flooded and recruitment is not known, we concluded the best date for release is when there is a natural flood, which naturally triggers fish spawning and the SWR will add to the natural flood and cover a greater floodplain area. The released volume will range from 0.302km3 to 2.192 km3, depending on SWR duration. In most years from 1976 to 2003, TMR impounded enough water for SWR only in the second half of the fish-spawning season (January-March). Lost revenue at TMR depended on release volume and ranged from US$ 0.493 million to US$ 3.452 million for the actual power rate. However, SWR could increase commercial fisheries income an estimated US$ 4.468 million. We forecast that SWR can bring fisheries benefits that surpass the lost revenue.
Additional publication details
Supplemental water releases for fisheries restoration in a Brazilian floodplain River: A conceptual model