Hydropower stands as a pivotal renewable energy source in the transition away from fossil fuels. Yet, securing its future amidst an ever-changing climate, while mitigating its environmental impact, necessitates knowledge and foresight. Within the scope of a comprehensive EU project, researchers from Sweden and Finland are collaboratively crafting future scenarios aimed at preserving biodiversity and adapting hydropower to a shifting climate.
In the midst of society's colossal shift towards renewable energy production, hydropower assumes a critical role. However, it also exerts adverse effects on ecosystems and species within watercourses and adjacent landscapes, demanding mitigation. To further complicate matters, climate change is expected to influence both water availability and electricity demand, with extreme events like droughts and floods becoming more prevalent.
This complex interplay is now under scrutiny, with researchers from various disciplines pooling their expertise to propose potential solutions.
"Urgent knowledge is required in this field to meet both climate and environmental objectives while ensuring they do not counteract one another," says Navinder Singh, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).
The research will be conducted in northern Sweden and Finland, home to Scandinavia's largest rivers and a significant portion of its hydropower capacity. Specifically, the study will focus on the Ume River, Lule River, Oulujoki River, and Kemijoki River among others.
This interdisciplinary project integrates social, hydrological, ecological, and climatic perspectives in its analyses. The approach seeks to harmonize these different viewpoints and their influence on future biodiversity while also evaluating public acceptance of hydropower as a source of clean, renewable energy for the future.
Navinder Singh and his colleagues at the SLU will lead the ecological research within the project. They will monitor and assess how vital habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial animals are affected by seasonal changes in regulated rivers and develop scenarios to predict the potential impacts of a changing climate.
"We will investigate biodiversity in water and adjacent land areas using various state-of-art methods and utilize models to develop future scenarios that can help identify possible measures to reduce negative environmental impacts," says Navinder Singh.
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