New Paper Published : Combining UAV-Based SfM-MVS Photogrammetry with Conventional Monitoring to Set Environmental Flows: Modifying Dam Flushing Flows to Improve Alpine Stream Habitat

Setting environmental flows downstream of hydropower dams is widely recognized as important, particularly in Alpine regions. However, the required flows are strongly influenced by the effects of the physical environment of the downstream river. Here, we show how unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based structure-from-motion multiview stereo (SfM-MVS) photogrammetry allows for incorporation of such effects through determination of spatially distributed patterns of key physical parameters (e.g., bed shear stress, bed grain size) and how they condition available stream habitat. This is illustrated for a dam-impacted Alpine stream, testing whether modification of the dam’s annual flushing flow could achieve the desired downstream environmental improvement. In detail, we found that (1) flood peaks in the pilot study were larger than needed, (2) only a single flood peak was necessary, (3) sediment coarsening was likely being impacted by supply from nonregulated tributaries, often overlooked, and (4) a lower-magnitude but longer-duration rinsing flow after flushing is valuable for the system. These findings were enabled by the spatially rich geospatial datasets produced by UAV-based SfM-MVS photogrammetry. Both modeling of river erosion and deposition and river habitat may be revolutionized by these developments in remote sensing. However, it is combination with more traditional and temporarily rich monitoring that allows their full potential to be realized. A copy of the paper is available here.