The fundamental influence of fluid dynamics on aquatic organisms is receiving increasing attention among aquatic ecologists. For example, the importance of turbulence to ocean plankton has long been a subject of investigation (Peters and Redondo 1997). More recently, studies have begun to emerge that explicitly consider the effects of shear and turbulence on freshwater invertebrates (Statzner et al. 1988; Hart et al. 1996) and fishes (Pavlov et al. 1994, 1995).
Hydraulic shear stress and turbulence are interdependent natural hydraulic phenomena that are important to fish, and consequently it is important to develop an understanding of how fish sense, react to, and perhaps utilize these phenomena under normal river flows. The appropriate reaction to turbulence may promote movement of migratory fish (Coutant 1998) or prevent displacement of resident fish. It has been suggested that one of the adverse effects of flow regulation by hydroelectric projects is the reduction of normal turbulence, particularly in the headwaters of reservoirs, which can lead to disorientation and slowing of migration (Williams et al. 1996; Coutant et al. 1997; Coutant 1998). On the other hand, greatly elevated levels of shear and turbulence may be injurious to fish; injuries can range from removal of the mucous layer on the body surface to descaling to torn opercula, popped eyes, and decapitation (Neitzel et al. 2000a,b). Damaging levels of fluid stress, such turbulence, can occur in a variety of circumstances in both natural and man-made environments.
This report discusses the effects of shear stress and turbulence on fish, with an emphasis on potentially damaging levels in man-made environments. It defines these phenomena, describes studies that have been conducted to understand their effects, and identifies gaps in our knowledge. In particular, this report reviews the available information on the levels of turbulence that can occur within hydroelectric power plants, and the associated biological effects. Furthermore, this report describes an experimental apparatus designed to test the effect of turbulence on fish, and defines its hydraulics. It gives the results of experiments in which three different fish species were exposed to representative levels of turbulence in the laboratory.