Scientist Studying How Ecosystem Regroups After Dam Demoval
November 7, 2011

Scientist Studying How Ecosystem Regroups After Dam Demoval

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) said on Monday that scientists are studying the effects of how an ecosystem manages itself after a dam is removed.

The team is studying a river system to learn how dam removal might affect them at Homestead Dam along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, New Hampshire.

The dam was built over 200 years ago along the Ashuelot and once served as a power source for a local mill.

The dam was taken down in July 2010, and the researchers rushed down to the dam site to study the effects of the local ecosystem.

"We were really fortunate because we were able to get in several months before the dam came out to get all the necessary pre-removal data," Dartmouth College geographer Frank Magilligan said in a press release.

The team used LIDAR imagery of the Ashuelot to look beneath vegetation showing the river's former riverbed from centuries ago.

"LIDAR is a very sophisticated laser system. What [we're] able to do is pick up very detailed, centimeter-scale topographic elevation," says Magilligan.

LIDAR is also used by the team to get new measurements and determine where the river is currently flowing.

"We'll be able to document a topographic snapshot before the dam was removed and a topographic snapshot a year after the dam was removed," Magilligan said in a press release.

He said the research is all about learning how rivers flow in order to make smart choices when it is time for a dam to come down.

"A lot of communities now are trying to wrestle with the decision of whether or not to support dam removal," Magilligan said. "And part of that uncertainty is our lack of scientific knowledge of what's going to happen when you take a dam out."


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