Study Integrates Ecosystem Services into Framework to Evaluate Impacts of Hydropower Development

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Hydropower is a controversial form of clean energy, as it may cause negative impacts on ecosystems. Given the pros and cons of hydropower, there is an urgent need for a systematic framework to evaluate trade-offs between hydroelectric-caused benefits and ecological losses.

In a study published in Sustainable Production and Consumption, researchers from Hohai University and the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences proposed a framework associated with ecosystem services (ESs) assessment for a more balanced consideration of hydropower development and to take measures to mitigate trade-offs among different objectives.

The researchers used integrated valuation of ecosystem services and tradeoffs (InVEST) in a case study evaluation in China’s Yalong river basin. They investigated spatio-temporal correlations among four types of ESs closely related to hydropower development over different periods (before construction, during construction, and during operation) in the Yalong River Hydropower Base in southwest China and considered the interests of three key stakeholder groups (government, developer company, and general public).

Hydropower development was found to have negative impacts on ESs, but sustainable ecological restoration measures were found to improve these during the hydropower operation period.

“The key message from our evaluation of the Yalong river basin is that we may achieve a win-win situation of hydropower and ecological benefits through long-term ecological management,” said BAI Yang of XTBG.

They then found that the spatial evaluation of ESs based on biophysical processes (such as InVEST) can provide a decision-making basis for more accurate ecological spatial management and control.

“This study proposes a systematic framework to evaluate ESs changes and provides evidence that win-win outcomes, improving economic and other ESs benefits can be achieved in relation to hydropower development,” said BAI Yang.

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