20 Oct 2011:
Waterways Emit More CO2
Than Previously Believed, Study Says
Rivers and streams in the U.S. release substantially more carbon into the atmosphere
Satellite view of the Mississippi River
assumed, a new study finds. According to the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience
, a significant amount of carbon absorbed by plants and trees ends up in waterways before ultimately being released into the atmosphere. Using geospatial data to model the movement of carbon dioxide from more than 4,000 rivers and streams across the U.S., researchers calculated that the CO2 emitted from waterways is roughly the same as burning 40 billion gallons of gasoline. “These rivers breathe a lot of carbon,” said David Butman of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and co-author of the study. “They are a source of carbon dioxide, just like we breathe out carbon dioxide and like smokestacks emit carbon dioxide.” According to researchers, the findings should alter the way scientists model how carbon is cycled at regional and global levels.
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Photographer Peter Essick documents the swift changes wrought by global warming in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung places. View the gallery.
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The Warriors of Qiugang
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In a Yale Environment 360
video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.