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Damming Tropical Island Streams: Problems, Solutions, and Alternatives

This peer-reviewed article from BioScience journal investigates the problems associated with damming of rivers and streams on tropical islands. The combination of human population growth, increased water usage, and limited groundwater resources often leads to extensive damming of rivers and streams on tropical islands. Ecological effects of dams on tropical islands can be dramatic, because the vast majority of native stream faunas (fishes, shrimps, and snails) migrate between freshwater and saltwater during their lives. Dams and associated water withdrawals have been shown to extirpate native faunas from upstream reaches and increase mortality of downstream-drifting larvae. A better understanding of the effects of dams and the behavior of tropical island stream faunas is providing insights into how managers can mitigate the negative effects of existing dams and develop alternatives to dam construction while still providing freshwater for human use. We review the ecological effects of dams on tropical island streams, explore means to mitigate some of these effects, describe alternatives to dam construction, and recommend research priorities.

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