As warm weather arrives sooner in many parts of the nation, forest plants and trees on the banks flourish, shading the stream from sunlight and causing an overall decrease in productivity in the late spring and summer.
A research paper published in this month’s issue of Global Change Biology titled “Unexpected effect of climate change: Stream ecosystem responses to the 2007 spring freeze” describes how a small change in canopy cover can dramatically impact a stream.
“The study implies that the algal productivity pulse in the stream that drives the ecosystem during the spring months could be shortened with climate change if leaf-out continues to occur earlier each year,” said ORNL researcher Patrick Mulholland, author of the paper. “The stream no longer gets that period of peak productivity in spring because the leaves are shading the stream when the sun angle is relatively high.”
For this particular study, an Arctic air mass sent temperatures to below 28 degrees Fahrenheit for several nights in succession, freezing many of the newly emerged leaves and leaving the stream exposed to higher than normal levels of sunlight over the next several months.
This early April freeze resulted in positive effects for a well-studied East Tennessee stream and reiterated the importance of sunlight on the growth of algae, bacteria, snails and other organisms in forest streams.
Compared to typical conditions, the post-freeze conditions set in motion a chain reaction.
“Increased light levels caused a cascade of ecological effects in the stream, beginning with considerably higher growth rates during the late spring and summer months when normally low light levels severely limit stream production,” said Mulholland, a member of the Environmental Sciences Division.
In this case, a freeze caused the Walker Branch stream to prosper, but an ecosystem cannot count on unexpected weather events to maintain productivity.
“The stream ecosystem cannot depend on an Arctic air mass moving in every year, killing the leaves and exposing the stream to sunlight, resulting in increased growth,” Mulholland said. “It’s an unpredictable weather occurrence. On the other hand, we see that early leaf emergence has become predictable and has negative effects on the stream ecosystem during the critical spring period when many stream organisms are dependent on algae for food.”
Although canopy cover in the spring leads to decreased organism growth, in the autumn, bacteria and fungi decompose the leaves and grow from the nutrients, thus stimulating productivity.
This research was funded by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the DOE Office of Science. Co-authors of the research paper are John Smith of ORNL, Brian Roberts of Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Walter Hill of the University of Illinois.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.
Emma Macmillan | Newswise Science News
Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences