Research project

Water/Energy/Food Nexus Sandpit

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  • Lead researcher:
  • Research funder:
  • Status:
    Not active

Project overview

Enhancing fisheries resilience and hydropower development: the road to sustainable energy-water-food NEXUS in Brazil

In Brazil, inland fisheries supplement livelihoods and provide an important source of protein for low-income communities. At the same time, to meet unprecedented demands for energy the development of hydroelectric power has resulted in more than 80% of electricity consumed being produced by this means, with plans to develop this resource further. While hydropower reduces poverty and increase quality of life, the impact on fisheries and the low-income people they support will be damaging if not managed sustainably, thus reflecting a classic Energy-Water-Food NEXUS challenge and a potential source of environmental conflict. This project will establish strong interdisciplinary collaborations involving early career researchers in Brazil and the UK through the establishment of a hub, in Minas Gerais, to develop solutions to global challenges that include sustainable energy for all, food security, and infrastructure. Activities will focus on transferring experience gained at the University of Southampton Strategic Research Group in NEXUS Science to quantify the impacts of large fish mortality events at existing dams (e.g. barotrauma), and develop fishing engineering solutions (e.g. behavioural deterrents using acoustics; optimisation modelling for decision-making and decommissioning of dams) to protect fisheries at both existing and planned sites. Successful solutions will bring positive socio-economic benefits, through reducing negative environmental impacts of the hydropower industry and consequently protecting fisheries resources. Impacts will also be generated through: i) the development of Brazilian capability in fishing engineering and ii) the transfer of tools and technology to partner organisations. Workshops will transfer results across organizations (e.g. energy industry, regulatory agencies, SME’s) and stimulate discussion aiming at improving and developing policies in Brazil to enhance sustainable resource development.

Project objectives:

1. Through using a state-of-the-art pressure chamber at the University of São João del-Rei (UFSJ) in Minas Gerais state, the project will quantify the impact of barotrauma associated with passage of commercially important fish through turbines/spillways.
2. Translate techniques developed at the University of Southampton (UoS) to test, under laboratory conditions, the deterrent effects of acoustic stimuli to repel test species away from hazardous areas (e.g. turbine intakes).
3. Develop a proof of concept optimisation planning tool to identify the best set of dam construction and decommissioning sites in a case study river network (São Francisco River in Minas Gerais state) to maximise hydropower generation potential while minimising negative ecosystem impacts.
4. Hold a series of workshops to facilitate knowledge transfer and training of early career researchers, engineers, and employees of SMEs in fishing engineering and to discuss policies to enhance fisheries conservation.

This work is supported by an Institutional Links grant, ID 332396528, under the Newton-Brazil Fund partnership. The grant is funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Universidade Federal de São João del-Rei and delivered by the British Council. For further information, please visit From the Brazilian side the project is funded by FAPEMIG, project ID CHE-APQ-04822-17, under the research call CONFAP-British Council: Institutional Links 2017.


Lead researcher

Professor Paul Kemp

Professor of Ecological Engineering
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Paul Kemp, Michele Acuto, Shaun Larcom, Darren Lumbroso & Markus Owen, 2022, Current Research in Environmental Sustainability, 4
Type: article
Thomas Benson, Jasper De Bie, Jennifer Gaskell, Paolo Vezza, James Kerr, Darren Lumbroso, Markus R. Owen & Paul Kemp, 2021, Ecological Modelling, 443, 1-18
Type: article
P. Vezza, F. Libardoni, C. Manes, T. Tsuzaki, W. Bertoldi & P.S. Kemp, 2020, Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1-11
Type: article