Contrary to small- and medium-sized rivers, little attention has been paid to the downstream migration of Atlantic salmon smolts in large-sized rivers and the size-related impact of hydropower stations. From 2014 to 2016, we investigated the downstream migration of n = 72 acoustic-tagged smolts in the Meuse river at a bifurcation zone between a hydropower station equipped with three Kaplan turbines and a navigation canal. A hydrodynamic model that solves the depth-integrated shallow water equations on a Cartesian grid using a finite volume technique was used to infer the influence of water discharge and flow velocity on the smolts' behaviour upstream of the hydroelectric complex. Of the migrating smolts, 41.5% performed back and forth movements before approaching the complex for the first time, sometimes over long distances and at a slow pace, leading to significant delays (3-298 h). Beyond about 250 m3 s- 1, the water flow direction changes towards the hydropower station with a gradual acceleration. A median water discharge of 161 m3 s-1 and associated median flow velocity of 0.14 m s-1 tended to favour a more direct and downstream movement towards the hydropower station. On the other hand, the navigation canal was mainly approached at low water discharge (median 132 m3 s-1), due to a higher flow velocity (median 0.11 m s-1) at the entrance. Of the released smolts, only 38.6% passed through the complex, of which 36.4% migrated by the navigation canal and 63.6% by the hydropower station, with a median research time of 04:44. Among all the released individuals, the escapement rate at the end of the study site was 2.9% by the canal and 8.3% by the Meuse river. This site, which offers two non-optimal, unattractive and unsafe migration routes, turns out to be problematic for successful downstream smolt migration.
Thematische Lijst 2020