Home Institution

Johns Hopkins University

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation


This study uses macroinvertebrates as bioindicators to assess the water quality upstream and downstream of a hydroelectric project in Ecuador’s eastern cloud forest. Ecuador has increasingly turned to hydropower to supply its energy needs as pressure mounts to turn away from fossil fuels. This transition has been realized on the Río Topo, located in the province of Tungurahua. This study aims to determine how the Central Hidroeléctrica Topo (CHT), a diversion hydroelectric project (HEP) constructed on the Río Topo in the 2010s, has affected the water quality of the river. Samples were taken of benthic (bottom-dwelling) macroinvertebrates in the Río Topo, both upstream and downstream of the CHT, as well as on the nearby and relatively pristine Río Zuñac. Through these samples, an understanding was reached not only of the present water quality in these areas, but also of how the water quality has changed as a result of the CHT’s construction. The physical parameters of turbidity and conductivity were also briefly sampled and compared between the three areas. Overall, the macroinvertebrate community structures in these three areas showed high water quality and biodiversity, but lower levels of water quality below the CHT. The results indicate that while healthy water persists in all three areas, the CHT has had a light but decidedly negative impact on the water quality. This is evidenced by much lower levels of individual macroinvertebrates, small but persistent differences in the results of macroinvertebrate-based indices, dissimilarity between the upstream and downstream areas of the Río Topo, and differences in the physical parameters. These effects should be taken into consideration for future hydropower projects.


Bioinformatics | Energy Policy | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Fresh Water Studies | Latin American Studies | Water Resource Management | Zoology


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