Nav: Home

Warming rivers make marked contribution to global greenhouse gas levels

July 18, 2018

Warming streams and rivers could be disproportionately contributing to the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases, according to a new study.

Many such watercourses with high levels of fine sediment and organic materials building up in their streambeds could be increasing greenhouse gas emissions from rivers, as well as increasing the risk of communicable disease and putting wildlife at risk.

Rising river temperatures are anticipated globally because of climate change and this will be made worse by increasing abstraction of cool groundwater that helps to reduce high temperatures in summer.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the British Geological Survey have discovered that warming rivers can cause marked increases in carbon dioxide and methane production.

Publishing findings in Nature Communications, their comparison of potential greenhouse gas emissions from UK streambed sediments shows that sensitivity to temperature varies with geology, organic matter and sediment size.

It is expected that temperature increases will be particularly important in agricultural lowland rivers and streams representing large areas of Europe, North America and Asia.

University of Birmingham co-lead researcher Sophie Comer-Warner said: "Our findings highlight the substantial risk of future greenhouse gas emissions from warming rivers, especially those which are small but have high organic matter concentrations.

"Under future climate-warming scenarios and changes in land use leading to more organic matter ending up in warmer rivers, the emission of greenhouse gases from such watercourses could increase disproportionately relative to their size in the landscape."

Small rivers are known to have the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions, with relatively large concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane found in their sediments. There has been little previous research into the origin and changing composition of these sediments and how this impacts greenhouse gas production.

University of Birmingham co-lead author Paul Romeijn commented: "Our comparison of potential greenhouse gas emissions from UK streambed sediments revealed levels of carbon dioxide and methane that were especially raised in chalk rivers, such as the River Lambourn in the North Wessex Downs, and in sediments rich in small particles and organic matter.

"If we are serious about reducing future emissions from rivers under climate warming, land management attention needs to focus on reducing sediment rich in organic matter content, and decreasing groundwater abstraction."
-end-
For more information or interviews, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312 or t.moran@bham.ac.uk. Out-of-hours +44 (0)7789 921165.

Notes to Editors
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world's top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

  • 'Thermal sensitivity of CO2 and CH4 emissions varies with streambed sediment properties' is published in Nature Communications. It was written by Sophie A. Comer-Warner, Paul Romeijn, Daren C. Gooddy, Sami Ullah, Nick Kettridge, Benjamin Marchant, David M. Hannah and Stefan Krause. A copy of the paper can be found at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04756-x

  • The British Geological Survey (BGS), a component body of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is the nation's principal supplier of objective, impartial and up-to-date geological expertise and information for decision making for governmental, commercial and individual users. The BGS maintains and develops the nation's understanding of its geology to improve policy making, enhance national wealth and reduce risk. It also collaborates with the national and international scientific community in carrying out research in strategic areas, including energy and natural resources, our vulnerability to environmental change and hazards, and our general knowledge of the Earth system. More about the BGS can be found at http://www.bgs.ac.uk

  • The Natural Environment Research Council is the UK's main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, food security, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on earth, and much more. NERC receives around £300 million a year from the government's science budget, which it uses to fund research and training in universities and its own research centres. http://www.nerc.ac.uk

  • Part of the project funding comes through the EU Marie Curie Initial Training Network - an initiative aimed at driving scientific excellence and innovation; bringing together universities, research institutes and other sectors from across the world to train researchers to doctorate level.


University of Birmingham

Related Climate Change Articles:

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
Historical climate important for soil responses to future climate change
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, examined how 18 years of drought affect the billions of vital bacteria that are hidden in the soil beneath our feet.
Can forests save us from climate change?
Additional climate benefits through sustainable forest management will be modest and local rather than global.
From crystals to climate: 'Gold standard' timeline links flood basalts to climate change
Princeton geologists used tiny zircon crystals found in volcanic ash to rewrite the timeline for the eruptions of the Columbia River flood basalts, a series of massive lava flows that coincided with an ancient global warming period 16 million years ago.
Think pink for a better view of climate change
A new study says pink noise may be the key to separating out natural climate variability from climate change that is influenced by human activity.
Climate taxes on agriculture could lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself
New IIASA-led research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

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

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.