We know that dams are a paramount driver of hydrological alteration, homogenizing regional river dynamics and biodiversity. However, dams also provide a range of socio-economic benefits, and under scenarios of water scarcity due to climate change and over-allocation of freshwater resources, it is increasingly important to ask how dams may provide engineered resilience to dependent social and ecological systems.
I am Albert Ruhi, a community ecologist motivated by applied questions about how freshwater biodiversity is responding to global change. I am a new Postdoc Fellow in the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), working on a project that focuses on the interaction between dams, water scarcity, and freshwater biodiversity, and that has Julian Olden as an external mentor. My project examines two questions: 1) Where are the battlegrounds of water scarcity in the U.S., defined as watersheds (HUC-8) where dams have a disproportionately high impact on hydrological and ecological alteration?, and 2) Can we identify optimal trade-offs between maximizing water conservation in reservoirs (to increase human resilience to water scarcity) and securing as much biodiversity insurance as possible?
I plan to answer these questions applying time-series methods on long-term physical (streamflow), ecological (fish spatial data), and socio-economic data. These two questions combined should illuminate how dams may provide engineered resilience in river basins via controlled river flow manipulations. Stay tuned!
– Albert Ruhi