January 6, 2022

Biological Response Models: Predicting Injury and Mortality of Fish During Downstream Passage through Hydropower Facilities


This report describes the U.S. Department of Energy’s HydroPASSAGE project efforts to develop and collect biological response models for integration into the Biological Performance Assessment (BioPA) toolset and the Hydropower Biological Evaluation Toolset (HBET). These models help understand how fish are likely to respond during dam passage when exposed to hydraulic and physical stressors associated with turbines and other hydropower structures. When fish pass through hydropower facilities, they may encounter several stressors, of which the three most common are collision, rapid decompression, and fluid shear. Specialized equipment has been used to develop 99 biological response models for exposure to blade strike, rapid decompression, or fluid shear. The models were gathered from the literature or developed as part of this effort and include models for 31 different species of fish that have various predicted endpoints (i.e., injury or mortality). Among these models, considerable variation in susceptibility to the stressors has been observed from one species to another, and a species’ susceptibility to one stressor does not necessarily indicate similar susceptibility to another. Although several species have been examined, it is still unclear how many other species, which may have different morphological traits, may respond to these stressors, so further examination of the different species is needed. These models can and have been applied in several different cases, often using the BioPA toolset and HBET, to better understand the potential for injury and mortality that may occur during fish passage at hydropower facilities, including specific applications, such as turbine replacement, the installation of new turbines, or changing operations of currently installed turbines. As hydropower is continually developed to meet the electricity needs of society, tools such as HBET and BioPA, used with the integrated biological response models, will aid in the development of technologies and strategies that avoid, minimize, mitigate, or manage environmental effects.

Published: January 6, 2022


Pflugrath B.D., R. Saylor, K.M. Engbrecht, R.P. Mueller, J.R. Stephenson, M. Bevelhimer, and B.M. Pracheil, et al. 2021. Biological Response Models: Predicting Injury and Mortality of Fish During Downstream Passage through Hydropower Facilities. PNNL-30893. Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.