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Rising temperatures could accelerate climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide stored in ponds and increasing the methane they release, new research shows.

Small Ponds, Big Climate Problems

Small ponds could end up having a massive negative effect on Earth’s climate as they warm up, according to scientists from the University of Exeter and Queen Mary University of London.  These researches conducted an experiment where they warmed up a number of small ponds by about 4 to 4 degrees over an interval of seven years to study the effects it would have on the greenhouse gas emissions and it’s ability to trap carbondioxide (CO2).

Ponds Store CO2 and Emit Methane

Small ponds play a significant role in the eco system as they store carbon dioxide (CO2) and emit gases such as methane into the atmosphere.

After seven years of conducting this experiment, a pond’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) was reduced by almost half, while methane release almost doubled. The results show that the increased temperatures of ponds (due to Global warming) could essentially accelerate Climate change.

Ponds and Lakes Disproportionately Large Sources of Methane and CO2

Lakes and ponds cover about 4 percent of Earth’s surface (excluding areas covered by glaciers and ice sheets) but they are disproportionately large sources of methane and CO2 to the atmosphere. According to the study, ponds smaller than one square meter are responsible for releasing about 40 percent of all methane emissions from inland waters.

“This is the first experiment to investigate the long-term effects of warming in aquatic ecosystems,” said lead author Professor Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“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. “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.

“The amplified effects of experimental warming we have observed in ponds are different to those we typically see on land, where large initial effects of warming appear to diminish over the long term,” Professor Yvon-Durocher said.

“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.”

The paper, entitled “Long-term warming amplifies shifts in the carbon cycle of experimental ponds”, is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.


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