Passage through a hydropower plant affects the physiological and health status of Atlantic salmon smolts

Imen Ben Ammar, Sébastien Baeklandt, Valérie Cornet, Sascha Antipine, Damien Sonny, Syaghalirwa N. M. Mandiki, Patrick Kestemont

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Atlantic salmon is an anadromous species migrating from upper-reach nursery areas in rivers to the oceanic feeding areas at smolt stage and inversely at adult stage requiring unimpeded migration routes. However, dams associated with hydroelectric power plants (HPP) disrupt river connectivity and affect fish movement and survival. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the short and mid-term physiological and immune response of Atlantic salmon smolts after passing through Andenne HPP (Meuse River, Belgium). Several parameters were studied after an in situ deliberate passage including direct mortality and external damages, stress and immune biomarkers as plasma cortisol and glucose levels, complement and peroxidase activities, and immune and oxidative stress related gene expression 24 h, 72 h and 120 h after passage. Survival rate was lower and external damages were more important in fish that confronted the HPP compared to the control ones. Moreover, the passage through the turbine affected plasma glucose levels, complement and peroxidase activities and the expression of some immune genes such as lysg, igm and mpo in a timely manner suggesting that this passage can lead to a great energy expenditure and a disruption of innate immunity. Our observations can partially explain the delayed mortality observed in many studies leading to a poor success of restocking programs. HPPs not only have a direct impact in terms of mortalities and injuries but also an indirect one in terms of physiological and immune changes that can compromise Atlantic salmon smolts ability to escape successfully to the ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110745
Number of pages12
JournalComparative biochemistry and physiology. Part A: Molecular & integrative physiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Atlantic salmon smolts
  • Downstream migration
  • Hydropower plant
  • Physiological and health status


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