Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Greenhouse-gas emissions from tropical dams

Emissions from tropical hydropower are often underestimated and can exceed those of fossil fuel for decades.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Dead trees in Brazil's Samuel Reservoir.


Figure 2: Methane-rich water is drawn from below the thermocline that divides the water column into a surface layer (epilimnion) and an anoxic bottom layer (hypolimnion).


  1. Abril, G. et al. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 19, GB4007 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Kemenes, A., Forsberg, B. R. & Melack, J. M. J. Geophys. Res. 116, G03004 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Fearnside, P. M. Wat. Air Soil Pollut. 133, 69–96 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Fearnside, P. M. Novos Cadernos NAEA 12, 5–56 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  5. IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (eds Edenhofer, O. et al.) 982 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

  6. Demarty, M. & Bastien, J. Energ. Policy 39, 4197–4206 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Eletrobrás Emissões de Dióxido de Carbono e de Metano Pelos Reservatórios Hidrelétricos Brasileiros: Relatório Final Relatório Técnico (Eletrobrás, 2000).

  8. Fearnside, P. M. Oecologia Brasiliensis 12, 100–115 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Fearnside, P. M. Climatic Change 66, 1–8 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. St Louis, V. C., Kelly, C., Duchemin, E., Rudd, J. W. M. & Rosenberg, D. M. Bioscience 20, 766–775 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bastviken, D., Tranvik, L. J., Downing, J. A., Crill, P. M. & Enrich-Prast, A. Science 331, 50 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Barros, N. et al. Nature Geosci. 4, 593–596 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Kemenes, A., Forsberg, B. R. & Melack, J. M. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L12809 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Dos Santos, M. A. et al. Oecologia Brasiliensis 12, 116–129 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Pueyo, S. & Fearnside, P. M. Oecologia Australis 15, 114–127 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Shindell, D. T. et al. Science 326, 716–718 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Ministério de Minas e Energia Plano Decenal de Expansão de Energia 2020 (MME, 2011).

  18. Del Sontro, T. et al. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44, 2419–2425 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Comitê Interministerial sobre Mudança do Clima Plano Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima – PNMC – Brasil (Ministério do Meio Ambiente, 2008).

  20. Fearnside, P. M. Mitig. Adapt. Strat. Glob. Change (in the press).

  21. Fearnside, P. M. Oecologia Australis 13, 609–618 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fearnside, P. M. Environ. Conserv. 24, 64–75 (1997).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Rosa, L. P., dos Santos, M. A., Tundisi, J. G. & Sikar, B. M. in Hydropower Plants and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (eds Rosa, L. P. & dos Santos, M. A.) 41–55 (Coordenação dos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Engenharia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, 1997).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Philip M. Fearnside.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fearnside, P., Pueyo, S. Greenhouse-gas emissions from tropical dams. Nature Clim Change 2, 382–384 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing