Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought.
This according to researchers publishing their results in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.
Their findings could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon among land, water and the atmosphere.
"Direct measurements of carbon dioxide concentrations and fluxes in streams and rivers are still extremely rare," said Henry Gholz, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.
"This study demonstrates that both are much higher than assumed. The research should enable more predictive and precise models of carbon cycling at regional to global scales."
The researchers found that a significant amount of carbon contained in land, which first is absorbed by plants and forests through the air, is leaking into streams and rivers and then released into the atmosphere before reaching coastal waterways.
"What we are able to show is that there is a source of atmospheric carbon dioxide from streams and rivers, and that it is significant enough for terrestrial modelers to take note of it," said David Butman, a co-author of the paper and scientist at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
He and his co-author, ecologist Peter Raymond also of Yale, analyzed data from samples of more than 4,000 rivers and streams throughout the United States, and incorporated detailed geospatial data to model the flux of carbon dioxide from water.
This release is equal to a car burning 40 billion gallons of gasoline, enough to drive back and forth to the moon 3.4 million times.
"These rivers breathe a lot of carbon," said Butman. "They are a source of carbon dioxide, just like we breathe out carbon dioxide and like smokestacks emit carbon dioxide.
"This has never been systematically estimated from a region as large as the United States."
The paper, titled "Significant Efflux of Carbon Dioxide from Streams and Rivers in the United States," also indicates that as the climate heats up there will be more rain and snow, and that an increase in precipitation will result in even more terrestrial carbon flowing into rivers and streams and being released into the atmosphere.
Any accurate estimate of carbon uptake vs. carbon released must include the carbon in streams and rivers, Butman said.
The researchers note that currently it's difficult to determine how to include this flux in regional carbon budgets, because the influence of human activity on the release of carbon dioxide into streams and rivers is still unknown.
The research was also funded by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, a NASA Carbon & Ecosystems Program grant, and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.Media Contacts
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2011, its budget is about $6.9 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Strong storms generating earthquake-like seismic activity
16.10.2019 | Florida State University
The shelf life of pyrite
14.10.2019 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen
A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)
It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...
Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.
The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...
Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.
Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...
A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.
The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...
Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...
02.10.2019 | Event News
02.10.2019 | Event News
19.09.2019 | Event News
18.10.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Medical Engineering
18.10.2019 | Physics and Astronomy