Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

U.S. rivers and streams saturated with carbon

Date:
October 20, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought, according to researchers. Their findings could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon among land, water and the atmosphere.

Scientists added a harmless titanium dioxide tracer to streams and rivers to track carbon flow.
Credit: Diana Karwan, Stroud Water Research Center

Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought, 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David Butman, Peter A. Raymond. Significant efflux of carbon dioxide from streams and rivers in the United States. Nature Geoscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1294

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "U.S. rivers and streams saturated with carbon." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111019183007.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, October 20). U.S. rivers and streams saturated with carbon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111019183007.htm
National Science Foundation. "U.S. rivers and streams saturated with carbon." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111019183007.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) — Iceland has lowered its aviation alert on its largest volcano after a fresh eruption on a nearby lava field prompted authorities to enforce a flight ban for several hours. Duration: 01:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

AP (Sep. 1, 2014) — A lightning strike injured three people on a New York City beach on Sunday. The storms also delayed flights and interrupted play at the US Open tennis tournament. (Sept. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) — Fears are mounting in Bangkok that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis. Duration: 01:21 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


U.S. Rivers and Streams Saturated With Carbon: Releasing Enough Carbon to Fuel 3.4 Million Car Trips to the Moon

Oct. 17, 2011 — Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing enough carbon into the atmosphere to fuel 3.4 million car trips to the moon, according to researchers. Their findings could change the way ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins