Salmonid habitat modelling studies and their contribution to the development of an ecologically acceptable release policy for Kielder Reservoir, North-East England

C N Gibbins, R M Acornley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)


1. Kielder Reservoir regulates the Rivers North Tyne and Tyne. It provides a regular supply of water for downstream users, supports abstractions for a major water transfer scheme and provides hydroelectric power (HEP). Kielder's release regime typically alternates between a 1.3 m(3) s(-1) compensation flow and 10(-15) m(3) s(-1) HEP releases of between 3 and 7 days in duration. Occasionally releases of up to 30 m(3) s(-1) are made for the purpose of encouraging fish runs, for recreational events or to help in water quality management. The impacts of this release regime on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and brown trout (S. trutta) habitat at four sites on the North Tyne are assessed and alternative regimes, designed to minimize impacts, are presented.

2. There is no evidence that the compensation flow results in extreme loss of instream habitat. A discharge of 1.3 m(3) s(-1) ensures that water is maintained over most of the channel area at sites representative of upper, middle and lower sections of the North Tyne. This discharge lies above breaks in slope of respective site discharge versus wetted area curves; thus, disproportionate increases in discharge would be needed to increase wetted area. Simulations using the Physical Habitat Simulation System (PHABSIM) suggest that the compensation now provides between 50% and 90% of the maximum possible weighted usable area (WUA) for juvenile (0 +) salmonids.

3. During HEP releases, juvenile salmonid habitat (WUA) apparently falls to between 20 and 40% of site maxima. Newly emerged juvenile fish (March and April) are most affected by HEP releases because they are relatively small (25 mm in length) and water temperatures are relatively low at this time of year. During March and April, critical near-bed displacement velocities for newly emerged fish may be exceeded across large parts (80%) of sites up to 8 km downstream from Kielder Reservoir; fish would either be displaced downstream or forced to relocate to flow refuge areas.

4. The availability of Atlantic salmon spawning habitat (WUA) at a key site is limited by the compensation flow; 1.3 m(3) s(-1) provides approximately one third of the habitat available at the optimum discharge (4 m(3) s(-1)). At this site, a discharge of approximately 2 m(3) s(-1) is needed to ensure most of the bed is inundated by water. Regulation has reduced the duration of flows exceeding 2 m(3) s(-1) from 90 to 60% of the spawning season.

5. Simulations suggest that when discharge drops from 30 m(3) s(-1) to the compensation flow, up to 60% of the optimum spawning habitat available at the former discharge may be left stranded (dry). This could potentially lead to egg or alevin mortality.

6. PHABSIM simulations suggest that increasing the compensation flow to 4 m(3) s(-1) during the spawning period (November and December) is likely to increase the availability of suitable spawning habitat. Also, increasing the compensation flow to 2 m(3) s(-1) during the incubation period (January through March) would minimize redd stranding. Reductions in the number of HEP releases in March and April would limit the extent to which newly emerged fish are exposed to velocities that potentially displace them. Such changes to the Kielder release regime may have implications for water resource management. While it is important that the biological instream flow requirements of the North Tyne are incorporated into the Kielder operating policy, these should be integrated along with the need for channel maintenance flows, downstream water supply abstractions and HEP generation, as well as for transfers of water to other catchments. Copyright (C) 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-224
Number of pages22
JournalRegulated Rivers
Issue number3
Early online date20 Apr 2000
Publication statusPublished - May 2000


  • Kielder Reservoir
  • modelling studies
  • north-east England
  • salmonid habitat
  • Atlantic salmon
  • water velocities
  • brown trout
  • temperature
  • survival
  • ecology
  • trutta
  • egg


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