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Study: Streams to Compound Climate Change as Temperatures Warm

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018   

EUGENE, Ore. — Streams and rivers will emit increasing amounts of carbon dioxide as temperatures rise from climate change, according to a new global study.

New research finds that just a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature will result in a 24 percent increase in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from these waterways. Alba Argerich, a former researcher at Oregon State University, studied streams near Eugene for this analysis. She said models of our changing climate include the effects of the oceans, forests and industry, but not the massive numbers of rivers and streams across the world.

"With this study now, this is confirming that, well, the trend can be even worse, right?” Argerich said. “If we don't take them into account, into these global climate models, we are missing an important piece of information."

Argerich said streams and rivers need oxygen and have respiration similar in a way to humans. Organisms on the water use and produce carbon dioxide. As temperatures go up, her research expects more carbon dioxide to be produced.

Argerich monitored creeks in the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene. She now works at the University of Missouri. The analysis was published in Nature Geoscience.

Researchers also studied streams in Alaska, Australia and Puerto Rico. Argerich said she hopes this is the model of the future for studying climate change. She said funding for this type of research is tight, especially in other countries, but a global view is needed to understand what is going on.

"I imagine that this is the way that the future of the science has to go, right? Instead of doing our own experiments, trying to work together to have a global picture,” she said.

Argerich joined 26 other co-authors on the study. She said this vast analysis confirms the results.


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