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ADCNR Harris Dam 17 - Assessment of impacts of flow management on macroinvertebrate assemblages


January 2017 - December 2018


Hydroelectric dams remain one of the primary sources of renewable energy globally. Hydropeaking regimes used to generate electricity are known to cause disturbances in natural flow and thermal conditions. Pulses of various magnitude create dual waves of sheer and thermal stress which, in general, cause a decrease in community complexity, richness, and native diversity downstream of hydropeaking dams. As human populations increase and become more reliable on renewable resources, reducing uncertainty regarding how hydropower impacts natural ecosystems is important to State and Federal partners as well as other stakeholders interested in multiple uses of river systems. R.L. Harris Dam is a hydropeaking facility located in the upper-central Tallapoosa River Basin that has been subject to an adaptive flow management project (R.L. Harris Adaptive Management Program, or AMP) since 2005. Our long-term study indicated that, despite improved flow regime plans during the AMP, communities in the regulated river remain dissimilar from those unaffected by the dam. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will use our data to investigate and predict how future alternate flow regime decisions from the dam will impact their biological objectives for biota. Metrics defining variation in flow, temperature, and local environmental variables will be used to best predict impacts to stakeholders values related to future flow regime decisions ultimately set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during dam re-licensing.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • DL Ward, AF Casper2, TD Counihan, JM Bayer, IR Waite, JJ Kosovich, CG Chapman, ER Irwin, JS Sauer, BS Ickes and AJ McKerrow. Long-term fish monitoring in large rivers: Utility of “benchmarking” across basins. Fisheries 42:100-114
  • Counihan, T. D., I. R. Waite, A. F. Casper, D. L. Ward, J. S. Sauer, E. R. Irwin, C. G. Chapman, B. S. Ickes, C. P. Paukert, J. J. Kosovich, and J. M. Bayer. 2018 Can data from disparate long-term fish monitoring programs be used to increase our understanding of regional and continental trends in large river assemblages? PLoS ONE


  • Counihan, T. D and 7 co-authors. 2015. Assessing trends in fish communities within and between several large US river systems. American Fisheries Society 145th Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon
  • Ouellette K, E Kosnicki, Clint Lloyd, and E Irwin. 2017. Analysis of benthic macroinvertebrate communities in regulated and unregulated reaches of the Tallapoosa River, Alabama. Alabama Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

  • Ouellette, K, E. Kosnicki, T. Hess, M.C. Lloyd and E. Irwin. Macroinvertebrate Community Response to Long-Term Flow Modification on the Tallapoosa River, Alabama. Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, Tampa, Florida.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 1

Masters Students: 6

Phd Students: 4

Post Docs: 1

University Staff: 29

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 14

Scientific Publications: 29

Presentations: 87



Funding Agencies

  • Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 
  2. Auburn University
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  4. U.S. Geological Survey
  5. Wildlife Management Institute