Nav: Home

When the river runs high

June 14, 2018

A massive world-wide study of dry riverbeds has found they're contributing more carbon emissions than previously thought, and this could help scientists better understand how to fight climate change.

Dr Nathan Waltham from the Tropical Water and Aquatic Eco-systems Research Centre (TropWATER) and James Cook University in Australia, joined scientists from 22 other countries who looked at 212 dry riverbeds on every continent on earth.

He said the contribution of intermittent rivers and streams to the process of carbon cycling - the process by which carbon is circulated around the ecosystem - is largely ignored.

"There is a substantial amount of plant litter that accumulates in dry riverbeds and when they flow again this material can breakdown rapidly. We've now estimated the potential short-term CO2 emissions during these rewetting events."

"We believe that a single pulse of CO2 emission upon litter rewetting contributes up to 10% of the daily CO2 emission compared to perennial rivers and streams, particularly in temperate climates. What this means is that the contributions of intermittent rivers and streams should be included in global carbon-cycling assessments," said Dr Waltham.

The scientists found that aridity, surrounding vegetation, channel width and dry-phase duration explained most variability in the quantity and decomposability of plant litter.

He said that the new data shows the contribution of CO2 from intermittent rivers and streams is higher than previously thought.

"Taking rivers and streams that only flow at certain times into account would improve estimates of the consequences of global climate change on carbon cycling - given that the extent of these rivers and streams will increase, and periods of drying will become more prolonged in many regions," said Dr Waltham.

About the research

Intermittent rivers, as the name suggests, sometimes stop flowing and can dry completely. Although far less studied than permanent rivers, they could represent half of the world's river network and, in response to climate change and increasing water demands, may come to dominate the landscape in some regions.
-end-


James Cook University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".