Ponds that warm up could accelerate climate change, study shows
22 February 2017 | Adaptation
New research has shown that an increase in temperatures could speed up climate change by increasing the amount of methane (CH4) released by ponds, and cutting the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) they store.
During the experiment, an "array" of ponds was warmed up by four to five degrees centigrade over a period of seven years.
The study, by scientists at the University of Exeter and Queen Mary University of London, found that the ability of a pond to absorb carbon dioxide fell by nearly half, while the release of methane nearly doubled.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that methane can be emitted by natural sources as well as human activities.
"Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period," the EPA adds.
"This is the first experiment to investigate the long-term effects of warming in aquatic ecosystems," lead author Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter, said in a statement.
"Given the substantial contribution small ponds make to the emission of greenhouse gases, it is vital to understand how they might respond to global warming," Yvon-Durocher added.
"Our findings show that warming can fundamentally alter the carbon balance of small ponds over a number of years, reducing their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide and increasing emissions of methane."
This could ultimately speed up climate change, Yvon-Durocher said, before going on to state that the amplified effects of experimental warming they had seen in the ponds were different to the ones normally seen on land, where the large, initial, effects of warming seemed to diminish over time.
"This accelerating effect in ponds, which could have serious impacts on climate change, is not currently accounted for in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models."