The implementation of environmental flows is of the utmost importance for ecosystem protection and restoration in dammed rivers. A key challenge in optimizing dam regulation is the uncertainty of the ecohydrology relationship between flow release and ecological response. In the present paper, we develop a framework of dam classification to organize the categories of the ecohydrology relationship for implementing environmental flows. Dams are classified from three major categories that differ in dam properties, hydrological alteration, and downstream hydrobiological diversities based on the relationship of hydrology and ecology. Finally, 773 dams in China are screened and ranked into four classes involving a great diversity of environmental flow components. A classification of dams that utilizes the implementation of environmental flows is presented. (1) Class 1 includes dams with rare and endangered fish species in the downstream. It is the category with the highest priority for environmental flow releases and regulation, requiring continuous flow and flood pulse components for fish spawning and migration. (2) Class 2 includes dams with significant hydrological alteration in the downstream. It is the category with second priority for environmental flow releases and regulation, requiring natural hydrological regimes simulation or complete flow component recovery for optimizing the flow duration curve and mitigating adverse impacts of dam operation. (3) Class 3 includes dams with a high degree of regulation where there is urgency for environmental flow releases and regulation, requiring that minimum flow is guaranteed by cascade reservoir regulation. (4) Class 4 includes dams with a low degree of regulation where there is less urgency for environmental flow releases and regulation. This classification method is important for future research, including environmental flow release regulation and the effectiveness evaluation of environmental flow adaptive management. It will be useful for guiding the implementation of environmental flows.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited