Sustainability Science Program

Mauricio Arias

Mauricio Arias

Mauricio AriasDr. Mauricio Arias
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department
Harvard University
26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: Moorcroft Lab, Suite 43
Tel: (1) 617-495-1621
Email: mauricio_arias@hks.harvard.edu
Group affiliation: Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellow

Mauricio Arias is a Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program based at the Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. His research aims at creating science-based linkages between the hydrological cycle, ecosystems, and society in order to promote sustainable management of water resources. He has studied physical, biological and chemical properties of freshwater ecosystems in Colombia, United States, China, New Zealand, and most recently in Cambodia, where he carried out his doctoral research. Mauricio is investigating the effect of hydropower operations in river flows and how hydrological alterations through the Amazon basin could be mitigated while maintaining electricity generation needs. He is contributing to the Initiative on Sustainable Development of the Amazon and its Surrounding Regions: The Interplay of Changing Climate, Hydrology, and Land Use led by Paul Moorcroft. Mauricio holds a Bachelor of Science (Magna Cum Laude) and a Masters of Engineering in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida. He recently completed a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, where he was awarded UC’s International Doctoral Student Scholarship. Mauricio’s doctoral research focused on the Mekong River Basin, where he quantified the impacts of hydropower development and climate change on the hydrology and ecology of the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake and one of the most productive freshwater fisheries on the planet. His faculty host is Paul Moorcroft.

Hydrological alterations from hydropower development in the Amazon
This project asks, what is the magnitude of river flow alterations from proposed hydropower throughout the Amazon, its interplay with other hydrological drivers, and what regions are expected to experience the largest disruptions.

Hundreds of dams are proposed in the Amazon, causing drastic hydrological alterations and impaired ecosystem services through the basin. When considering climate change and land use conversion, hydropower impacts are even more confounded and it is necessary to combine existing biosphere-atmospheric models with a hydropower operations/river routing model to adequately understand overall expected river flow disruptions. Thus, the goal of this research is to quantify the magnitude of hydrological alterations caused by hydropower and its interplay with other drivers of future hydrological change in the Amazon. This goal will be addressed through 3 research questions: 1. What is the magnitude of river flow alterations from proposed hydropower projects and what regions are expected to experience largest changes? 2. What are the tradeoffs and cumulative impacts of hydropower, climate change and land use conversion on river flows? 3. How will dam operations affect downstream water flows and what is the trade-off between electricity generation and hydrological alternations? The project will first compile a database of Amazon’s dams. A numerical model of hydropower operations and river routing using HEC-ResSim and inputs from ED2-BRAMS will then be created. Simulations will be performed according to the initiative’s modeling scenarios, river flow alterations will be quantified, and sub-basins will be classified according to the expected level of alteration. The database, model, and maps will be shared with local stakeholders in Brazil and the other Amazon countries and could provide crucial recommendations to national governments to warrant a sustainable future for the Amazon.

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