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Status and trends of dam removal research in the United States

March 15, 2017

Aging infrastructure coupled with growing interest in river restoration has driven a dramatic increase in the practice of dam removal. With this increase, there has been a proliferation of studies that assess the physical and ecological responses of rivers to these removals. As more dams are considered for removal, scientific information from these dam-removal studies will increasingly be called upon to inform decisions about whether, and how best, to bring down dams. This raises a critical question: what is the current state of dam-removal science in the United States? To explore the status, trends, and characteristics of dam-removal research in the U.S., we searched the scientific literature and extracted basic information from studies on dam removal. Our literature review illustrates that although over 1200 dams have been removed in the U.S., fewer than 10% have been scientifically evaluated, and most of these studies were short in duration ( < 4 years) and had limited (1–2 years) or no pre-removal monitoring. The majority of studies focused on hydrologic and geomorphic responses to removal rather than biological and water-quality responses, and few studies were published on linkages between physical and ecological components. Our review illustrates the need for long-term, multidisciplinary case studies, with robust study designs, in order to anticipate the effects of dam removal and inform future decision making.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Status and trends of dam removal research in the United States
DOI 10.1002/wat2.1164
Authors James Bellmore, Jeffrey J. Duda, Laura Craig, Samantha L. Greene, Christian E. Torgersen, Mathias J. Collins, Katherine Vittum
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title WIREs Water
Index ID 70181792
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis