Ecorelease: a tool for calculating ecologically functional minimum flows
The flow of water shapes the ecosystems of the streams and rivers creating habitats for its species. How can we design flows and watercourses on stretches where most of the water has been diverted to hydroelectric power stations to ensure habitats for species and ecosystems?
In Sweden, there are hundreds of stream and river reaches with reduced discharge because water is diverted to hydropower stations. There are both conflicts and uncertainty concerning how much water is needed for the reaches to have functioning ecosystems and to meet environmental goals. The purpose of the project is to develop methods to quantify the flow needed to achieve different ecosystem functions and to create habitat for species associated with running waters. We will map the discharge in reaches with reduced discharge across Sweden and develop a tool for calculating the environmental benefits and costs with a given level of discharge as a basis for minimum-flow release decisions. Reaches with minimum flow having functioning ecosystems can provide critical habitat for species associated with running waters, while the tool can help to prioritize among flow measures and sites to avoid release of water where the environmental benefits are insufficient in relation to the costs.