1st Working Group Meeting

23-25 March 2017

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


Amazon Dams Group_Meeting_Cornell University

Hundreds of hydropower projects have been proposed for the Andean Amazon region, as well as for other biodiverse regions of the world undergoing unprecedented rates of hydropower expansion. Our premise is that regional planning needs to consider basin-wide ecosystem services when determining which hydropower projects to develop. This requires that we first understand how different configurations of hydropower project portfolios influence a suite of ecosystem services across the Andes Amazon basin. Our working group will hold a set of meetings in 2017-2018 to develop a scientific framework for understanding cumulative impacts of hydropower expansion on ecosystem services in data-scarce regions such as the Andes Amazon.

These working group meetings are designed to organize a community of experts working in the Andes Amazon, so that we can collaboratively explore how best to meet our goal of preserving ecosystem services under hydropower expansion. We will organize these meetings around the central theme of integrated, basin-wide planning, i.e., understanding the trade-offs between hydropower expansion and ecosystem services across the entire Andes Amazon, rather than focusing on individual projects and local environmental impacts. As starting points, we would like to consider the following questions:

  • What are the cumulative effects of multiple dams on hydrologically-based ecosystem services in extensive dam networks?
  • For different spatial configurations of dam networks, what are the trade-offs between aggregate hydropower yields and ecosystem service production
  • What are the critical thresholds whereby ecosystem services are severely compromised by the construction of additional hydropower projects?

An ultimate goal is to establish whether there are generalizable “rules” in designing configurations of dams that minimize functional impairment to ecosystem services yet meet acceptable hydropower targets within some defined economic constraint.   We recognize the many challenges here, given the scarcity of information for the region, and it will be important for us to identify key analytical approaches and data gaps critical for addressing these questions.

Our first meeting will have two stages.  The first afternoon (March 23) and morning (March 24) will be spent with participant overviews of topics related to our different areas of expertise, and will help to provide context for the working group.   The remainder of the meeting will be divided between smaller breakout groups and group discussions.  By the end of this first meeting, we want to:

  • Generate a list of hydrologically-based ecosystem services in the Andes Amazon that are vital, relevant, and quantifiable.
  • Discuss approaches for exploring cumulative impacts of multiple dams, tradeoffs between hydropower and ecosystem services, and optimal spatial configurations in dam networks.
  • Discuss how to get a handle on these services for proposed hydropower projects in the region, using existing data, best estimates, and modeling approaches.
  • Identify some of the most severe data gaps for understanding tradeoffs between hydropower and ecosystem services.
  • Discuss tangible products (e.g., journal publications, proposals, white papers, models) that will result from our working group meetings, along with a timeline.
Top photo credit: Google Earth
Panel 1



23-25 March, 2017

Please note that the meeting locations is in Physical Sciences on Day 1, and 300 Rice Hall on Days 2 and 3

Day 1, Thursday March 23

Meet in 401 Physical Sciences

Time Presenter/Topic
12:30 – 1 pm* Alex Flecker Introductions and Vision for Meetings
1 – 1:10 pm David Lodge  (ACSF) Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
1:10 – 1:30 pm LeRoy Poff Dams and the natural flow regime
1:30 – 1:50 pm Steve Hamilton The global hydropower boom: Implications for tropical river systems
1:50 – 2:25 pm Jonathan Higgins TNC – Hydropower by Design
2:25 – 2:45 pm Mariana Montoya WCS – Aguas Amazonicas Project
2:45 – 3:10 pm BREAK
3:10 – 3:30 pm Javier Maldonado Dams and connectivity on the Rio Magdalena / Amazon Fish Database Project
3:30 – 3:50 pm Elizabeth Anderson Dams, connectivity, and the Living Andean Rivers Project
3:50 – 4:10 pm Carlos Cañas Amazon fisheries as a key ecosystem service
4:10 – 4:30 pm Andrea Encalada Overview of the Ecuadorian Amazon: the Napo and Pastaza
4:30 – 4:50 pm Roosevelt Garcia Ecosystem services in the Andes-Amazon region
4:50- 5:30 pm Group Discussion  Facilitator: Olvier Dangles
5:30 – 8:30 pm Cocktail hour, dinner
*Lunch will be provided

Day 2, Friday, March 24

Meet in 300 Rice Hall

Time Presenter/Topic
9 -9:20 am Jorge Abad Andean-Amazon connectivity, Sediments, Morphology and potential consequences of hydropower dams
9:20 – 9:40 am Carolina Bernal Andean geology and sediments
9:40 – 10 am Bruce Forsberg Estimating impacts of major dams on Amazon sediments and nutrients
10  – 10:20 am Group Discussion Facilitators: Scott Steinschneider and Todd Walter
10:20 – 10:40 am BREAK
10:40 – 11 am Carla Gomes Computational Sustainability and Optimization
11 – 11:30 am Xiaojian Wu & Roosevelt Garcia Modeling tradeoffs between hydropower and connectivity – an initial approach
11:30 – Noon Group Discussion Starting framework
Noon – 1 pm Lunch
1- 3:15 pm Group Discussion Mapping out a strategy/Facilitators: Scott Steinschneider and Suresh Sethi
3:15 – 3:30 pm BREAK
3:30 – 5 pm Group Discussion Mapping out a strategy / Identify Working Groups
7:00 pm Dinner at Flowerpeckers

Day 3, Saturday, March 25

Meet in 300 Rice Hall

Time Presenter/Topic
9 am – noon Working sub-group discussions
Noon – 1:30 pm Lunch
1:30- 2:30 pm Sub-group reporting
2:30 – 3:15 pm Group discussion Working group goals and products
3:15 – 3:30 pm BREAK
3:30 – 5 pm Group discussion Summaries / Meeting #2 Plan
7:00 pm Dinner at Burtt House
Download this program here
Panel 2

Selected Readings

Selected readings

Additional readings

Top photo source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov