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EPFL helps revitalize Sarine River habitats downstream of Rossens dam

In 2016, ahead of the first artificial flood to be triggered since the Rossens dam was built, Groupe E energy supplier and Fribourg Canton invited researchers in to conduct an experiment. The team, comprising scientists from EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), the University of Zurich, and Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), tested out a hypothesis that had never been proven outside a laboratory: that depositing sediment along the banks of a river before a flood could enhance wildlife habitats. The findings, recently published in Scientific Reports, reveal a 36% improvement in habitat suitability – as measured by the Hydro-Morphological Index of Diversity (HMID) – when compared with the baseline situation. Outside the impact area, meanwhile, post-flood HMID increased by only 18%. “Our research shows how sediment deposits can increase ecosystem diversity,” explains Severin Stähly, the paper’s lead author. Stähly completed his PhD at EPFL’s Laboratory of Hydraulic Constructions (LCH), where he was supervised by Honorary Professor Anton Schleiss.