Flow and thermal regimes in river networks: effects of hydropower regulation and climate extremes

Feng, Meili (2016) Flow and thermal regimes in river networks: effects of hydropower regulation and climate extremes. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Interactive impacts of climate change and human activities (e.g. hydropower production) have posed urgency in examining the patterns of hydrological and thermal response in riverine ecosystems, and the potential ecological implications manifested. Hydro-geomorphic conditions are the major factors in shaping water qualities in river networks, especially under the extreme climatic events. However, when the power of nature is encountered with human regulations, represented by hydropower production, it would be well worth discussing how the pictures of riverine hydro- and thermal regimes would change over the certain range of time and space. Moreover, the possible utility of hydropower regulation as mitigation of extreme climate changes is still open question to be verified. Above-mentioned questions are answered in three aspects specifically: • Governing factors and spatial distribution model for water residence time in river networks across Germany. Based on the machine learning technique of boosted regression trees (BRT), spatial distribution of water residence time is estimated for the long-term annual average hydrological conditions and extreme cases of flood and drought. • Impacts of hydropower over temporal and spatial range are investigated by analyzing the mechanisms of hydropeaking propagation. Hydrologic and geomorphic contribution framework is proposed and applied for the upper Rhone River basin in Switzerland, a typical hydropower exploited river basin in the mountainous area. • River water temperature response as an indication for ecological status is investigated for the alpine rivers across Switzerland, excellent representatives of sensitivity and vulnerability to climate change while under highly exploitation of hydropower activities. Extreme climate change case of heatwaves in 2003 and 2006 are selected and analysed especially. Results of the three research components in correspondents to listed research questions showed that river hydrological regimes have more directly/important influence on the variation of flow availability in comparison with the geomorphologic settings. Nevertheless, geomorphologic and topologic conditions (e.g. river width, slope, and roughness coefficient) that largely control the hydraulic waves diffusion processes in a hydropower-dominated river basin determine the spatial range of hydropeaking impacts. A hierarchy framework of geophysical obstructions, hydrology, and hydraulic waves diffusion process is proposed for analyzing the spatial range of hydropeaking propagation. When the effects of hydropeaking and thermopeaking that induced by hydropower production activities are dominated in the river reach, hydropower regulation offers as great potential to mitigate extreme climate events (i.e. heatwaves). By looking into specific perspective of river hydro- and thermal regimes, hydropower regulation, and climate extremes via different scales, we investigated the interactive effects between riverine ecosystem and human-climatic impacts. We expanded the approach of water residence time estimation into the field of machine learning with spatial predictions. Impacts of hydropower regulation are first elaborated with a framework of hydropeaking propagation mechanisms. Hydropower regulation has been identified to have great potential to mitigate extreme heatwaves through altering thermal regimes in rivers. Results of the study not only contribute to river hydrology and ecology studies, but also to the river management and climate change mitigation practices.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Environmental Engineering
PhD Cycle:29
Subjects:Area 08 - Ingegneria civile e Architettura > ICAR/01 IDRAULICA
Area 08 - Ingegneria civile e Architettura > ICAR/03 INGEGNERIA SANITARIA-AMBIENTALE
Uncontrolled Keywords:Hydropeaking; Water residence time; Heatwaves;
Additional Information:Intellectual property belongs to the author of the Ph.D candidate. Any questions or discussions welcomed.
Funders:Erasmus Mundus SMART programme funded by the European Union
Repository Staff approval on:11 Jan 2017 12:06

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