Large reservoirs: Chapter 17



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Large impoundments, defined as those with surface area of 200 ha or greater, are relatively new aquatic ecosystems in the global landscape. They represent important economic and environmental resources that provide benefits such as flood control, hydropower generation, navigation, water supply, commercial and recreational fisheries, and various other recreational and esthetic values. Construction of large impoundments was initially driven by economic needs, and ecological consequences received little consideration. However, in recent decades environmental issues have come to the forefront. In the closing decades of the 20th century societal values began to shift, especially in the developed world. Society is no longer willing to accept environmental damage as an inevitable consequence of human development, and it is now recognized that continued environmental degradation is unsustainable. Consequently, construction of large reservoirs has virtually stopped in North America. Nevertheless, in other parts of the world construction of large reservoirs continues.

The emergence of systematic reservoir management in the early 20th century was guided by concepts developed for natural lakes (Miranda 1996). However, we now recognize that reservoirs are different and that reservoirs are not independent aquatic systems inasmuch as they are connected to upstream rivers and streams, the downstream river, other reservoirs in the basin, and the watershed. Reservoir systems exhibit longitudinal patterns both within and among reservoirs. Reservoirs are typically arranged sequentially as elements of an interacting network, filter water collected throughout their watersheds, and form a mosaic of predictable patterns.

Traditional approaches to fisheries management such as stocking, regulating harvest, and in-lake habitat management do not always produce desired effects in reservoirs. As a result, managers may expend resources with little benefit to either fish or fishing. Some locally expressed effects, such as turbidity and water quality, zooplankton density and size composition, or fish growth rates and assemblage composition, are the upshot of large-scale factors operating outside reservoirs and not under the direct control of reservoir managers. Realistically, abiotic and biotic conditions in reservoirs are shaped by factors working inside and outside reservoirs, with the relative importance of external factors differing among reservoirs.

With this perspective, large reservoirs are viewed from a habitat standpoint within the framework of a conceptual model in which individual reservoir characteristics are influenced by both local- and landscape-scale factors (Figure 17.1). In the sections that follow, how each element of this hierarchical model influences habitat and fish assemblages in reservoirs is considered. Important in-reservoir habitat issues and reservoirs as part of larger systems, where reservoir management requires looking for real solutions outside individual reservoirs are described.

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Publication type:
Book chapter
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Book Chapter
Large reservoirs: Chapter 17
Year Published:
American Fisheries Society
Publisher location:
Bethesda, MD
Contributing office(s):
Coop Res Unit Atlanta
42 p.
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Larger Work Title:
Inland fisheries management in North America
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