Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research uncovers added value of streamside forests

14.09.2004


Studies demonstrate that trees keep pollutants out of streams, help process pollutants in them



A team of researchers led by scientists from the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pa., has discovered that streamside (or riparian) forests play a critical – and previously unacknowledged – role in protecting the world’s fresh water.

Their findings, funded jointly by the National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency and published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have significant implications for a world that is facing a huge and growing freshwater crisis, in which 20 percent of the world population lacks access to clean drinking water and more than 2.2 million people die each year from diseases transmitted by contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation.


"Policies aimed at providing sufficient and clean fresh water have historically focused on massive and expensive engineering projects, such as dams and filtration plants," said scientist Bernard Sweeney of the Stroud Center and lead author of the paper. "In doing so, they have often overlooked the substantial benefits that natural ecosystems provide."

Recent studies, however, have begun to document the considerable value of the services that nature delivers free of charge. "Perhaps nowhere is that value more evident than in streams and rivers, where hundreds of trillions of tiny organisms work constantly to clean the water," said Sweeney.

"This study has revealed new dimensions of the ecosystem services that forests and small streams provide," says Penny Firth, program director in NSF’s division of environmental biology, which funded the research. "It clearly shows that a comprehensive understanding of ecological patterns and processes is key to forecasting as well as maximizing benefits."

For some time, scientists and policy makers have recognized the role that riparian forests play in filtering pollutants before they enter the stream. This new research shows that such forests also play a vital role in protecting the health of the stream itself by enhancing the ability of its ecosystem to process organic matter and pollutants such as nitrogen. Conversely, the deforestation of riparian lands compromises both the quantity and the quality of a stream’s ecosystem, thereby reducing its ability to deliver important services to humans.

In their study of 16 streams in eastern North America, the scientists found that stream sections flowing through forested areas are wider and shallower than those in meadowlands, their beds are rougher and have more habitat, and water moves more slowly through them. Those factors, along with other riparian forest benefits such as a greater variety of organic food and more-natural temperature patterns, produce a richer and more-natural ecosystem than do deforested streams, and the increased abundance of bacteria, algae, invertebrates and fish enables them to better process certain pollutants.

Because the study was conducted on small streams, which comprise more than 90 percent of all streams in the United States, the implications for improving water quality by planting trees along stream banks are enormous, says Sweeney: forested streams will deliver cleaner water to downstream rivers, estuaries and, ultimately, oceans. "While these findings are based on detailed studies in eastern North America, there is a growing body of independent data that suggests they are applicable on a global scale," Sweeney says.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Camera on NASA's Lunar Orbiter survived 2014 meteoroid hit

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>