Reducing adverse impacts of Amazon hydropower expansion

Alexander S. Flecker, Qinru Shi, Rafael M. Almeida, Héctor Angarita, Jonathan M. Gomes-Selman, Roosevelt García-Villacorta, Suresh A. Sethi, Steven A. Thomas, N. LeRoy Poff, Bruce R. Forsberg, Sebastian A. Heilpern, Stephen K. Hamilton, Jorge D. Abad, Elizabeth P. Anderson, Nathan Barros, Isabel Carolina Bernal, Richard Bernstein, Carlos M. Cañas, Olivier Dangles, Andrea C. EncaladaAyan S. Fleischmann, Michael Goulding, Jonathan Higgins, Céline Jézéquel, Erin I. Larson, Peter B. McIntyre, John M. Melack, Mariana Montoya, Thierry Oberdorff, Rodrigo Paiva, Guillaume Perez, Brendan H. Rappazzo, Scott Steinschneider, Sandra Torres, Mariana Varese, M. Todd Walter, Xiaojian Wu, Yexiang Xue, Xavier E. Zapata-Ríos, Carla P. Gomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Proposed hydropower dams at more than 350 sites throughout the Amazon require strategic evaluation of trade-offs between the numerous ecosystem services provided by Earth's largest and most biodiverse river basin. These services are spatially variable, hence collective impacts of newly built dams depend strongly on their configuration. We use multiobjective optimization to identify portfolios of sites that simultaneously minimize impacts on river flow, river connectivity, sediment transport, fish diversity, and greenhouse gas emissions while achieving energy production goals. We find that uncoordinated, dam-by-dam hydropower expansion has resulted in forgone ecosystem service benefits. Minimizing further damage from hydropower development requires considering diverse environmental impacts across the entire basin, as well as cooperation among Amazonian nations. Our findings offer a transferable model for the evaluation of hydropower expansion in transboundary basins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-760
Number of pages8
Issue number6582
StatePublished - Feb 18 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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