Inland Waters ‘Breathe’ Carbon – Scientists Discover What This Means For Global Systems

Source: University

Photo: Steve Bittinger/Unsplash


For a long time, scientists evaluating the global carbon cycle considered rivers and streams akin to pipes, channeling carbon and other solutes from the land to the sea. Today, however, scientists know that along the way these inland waters also “breathe” carbon and other gases into the atmosphere.

In fact, the critical role of this greenhouse gas “evasion” from rivers and  was, for the first time, incorporated into the Fifth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014.

Yet much remains unknown about how much gas is actually released from these  and the chemical and ecological dynamics that affect their transport.

A new Yale study reveals important insights into the factors that influence the release of greenhouse gases from these , including a key relationship between storm events, ecology, and topography in moderating this release.

In an analysis of headwater streams in central Connecticut, scientists found that concentrations of three greenhouse gases— dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane—increased in wetland streams during rainstorms, but decreased or remained constant in forested streams. However, those gases were also less likely to be released from the wetland streams than from the streams in forested areas, they found.

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Photo: Steve Bittinger/Unsplash

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