Quantifying tradeoffs between electricity generation and fish populations via population habitat duration curves

Lauren H. Logan, Rohini S. Gupta, Amy Ando, Cory David Suski, Ashlynn Suzanne Stillwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Water resources management and the interaction between society and the environment are an integral part of the energy-water nexus. Thermal pollution from thermoelectric power plants poses a potential threat to aquatic ecosystems, particularly in regards to optimal water temperature regimes for sustaining fish populations. To quantify and address the tradeoffs in power plant electricity generation and associated thermal pollution (from cooling water discharges) on aquatic populations, population habitat duration curves (PHDCs) were generated. The Shawnee Fossil Plant on the Ohio River - and specific fish populations - were assessed with regard to water temperature dynamics. Following the concept of thermal performance curves, Electric Power Research Institute biological data were used to demonstrate the relationship between temperature and fish population. Using those biological data and temperature duration curves, PHDCs were generated, which can be used as ecological models in decision-making frameworks and economic analyses. The tradeoff in loss of electricity generation and gain of ecosystem value (via fish populations) is presented for a 1.1 °C change in thermal pollution. PHDCs demonstrate the quantification of water temperature as a resource, and the economic tradeoffs between thermoelectric power plants and aquatic ecosystem sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109373
JournalEcological Modelling
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021


  • Ecosystem economics
  • Energy-water nexus
  • Habitat duration curve
  • Policy
  • Thermal pollution
  • Thermoelectric power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling


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