Canadian Consulting Engineer

Rivers and streams release more C02 than lakes

An international study that involved scientists at the University of Waterloo has found a surprising result in measuring the release of greenhouse gases from water bodies. The study found that rivers and streams release carbon dioxide at a rate...

December 10, 2013   Canadian Consulting Engineer

An international study that involved scientists at the University of Waterloo has found a surprising result in measuring the release of greenhouse gases from water bodies. The study found that rivers and streams release carbon dioxide at a rate five times greater than the world’s lakes and reservoirs combined. Such a finding runs contrary to popular belief.

The researchers found that the rate at which lakes and reservoirs release carbon dioxide, or “evasion rate,” was lower than previous estimates, but that the rate from rivers and streams was three times higher, and even greater in smaller, fast-moving streams. They found that the global carbon dioxide evasion rate from rivers and streams was 1.8 billion tons of carbon per year, compared with the 0.32 billion tons from lakes and reservoirs.

Published recently in the journal Nature, the study was co-authored by Professor Hans Dürr, a member of the Ecohydrology Research Group from the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo. He said: “Identifying the sources and amounts of carbon dioxide released from continental water sources has been a gap in understanding the carbon cycle. Our findings show just how much carbon dioxide inland waters release and identified that rivers and streams are the main source not lakes and reservoirs, as previously thought.”

Professor Dürr’s modelling tool called Coastal Segmentation and related Catchments, or COSCAT, was critical to putting the data into the global context. The rest of the team included scientists from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany and the United States.

In its press release, the University of Waterloo notes that it’s important to improve our estimates of carbon dioxide emissions because many satellite products do not exist for latitudes higher than 60 degrees north.

The paper was entitled “Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Inland Waters,” published in Nature on November 21, 2013 by Peter A. Raymond, Jens Hartmann, Ronny Lauerwald, Sebastian Sobek, Cory McDonald, Mark Hoover, David Butman, Robert Striegl, Emilio Mayorga, Christoph Humborg, Pirkko Kortelainen, Hans Dürr, Michel Meybeck, Philippe Ciais and Peter Guth.

To read the University of Waterloo press release, click here.


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