Hydrostatic pressure is known to protect fish from damage by total dissolved gas (TDG) supersaturation, but empirical relationships are lacking. In this study we demonstrate the relationship between depth, TDG, and gas bubble trauma (GBT). Hydroelectric dams generate TDG supersaturation that causes bubble growth in the tissues of aquatic animals, resulting in sublethal and lethal effects. We exposed fish to 100%, 115%, 120%, and 130% TDG at 16 and 63 cm of depth and recorded time to 50% loss of equilibrium and sublethal symptoms. Our linear model of the log-transformed time to 50% LOE (R2 = 0.94) was improved by including depth. Based on our model, a depth of 47 cm compensated for the effects of 4.1% (±1.3% SE) TDG supersaturation. Our experiment reveals that once the surface threshold for GBT from TDG supersaturation is known, depth protects rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from GBT by 9.7% TDG supersaturation per metre depth. Our results can be used to estimate the impacts of TDG on fish downstream of dams and to develop improved guidelines for TDG.

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Department of Biology

Pleizier, N.K. (Naomi K.), Nelson, C. (Charlotte), Cooke, S.J, & Brauner, C.J. (Colin J.). (2020). Understanding gas bubble trauma in an era of hydropower expansion: How do fish compensate at depth?. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 77(3), 556–563. doi:10.1139/cjfas-2019-0243