Climate change setback for acidified rivers

Dec 03, 2008

Climate change is hampering the long-term recovery of rivers from the effects of acid rain, with wet weather offsetting improvements, according to a new study by Cardiff University.

The research, by Professor Steve Ormerod and Dr Isabelle Durance of the School of Biosciences took place over a 25 year period around Llyn Brianne in mid-Wales. Their findings are published online today in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology.

Carried out in 14 streams, the research involved assessing the number and variety of stream insects present each year, measuring concentrations of acid and other aspects of stream chemistry, and documenting climatic variation such as warmer, wetter winters.

With average acidity in rivers falling due to improvements in the levels of acid rain, the researchers expected that up to 29 insect species should have re-colonised the improving Welsh streams. Typical among them should be sensitive mayflies and other groups often eaten by trout and salmon.

Their findings, however, showed a large short-fall in biological recovery, with just four new species added to the recovering rivers sampled.

Professor Steve Ormerod, who has led the project since it began in the early 1980s, said: "Since the 1970's, there have been huge efforts to clean-up sources of acid rain, and our research shows that rivers are heading in the right direction. However, our results support the theory that acid conditions during rainstorms kill sensitive animals. During recent wetter winters, upland streams have been acidified enough to cancel out up to 40 percent of the last 25 years' improvements: climatic effects have clearly worked against our best efforts."

Dr Isabelle Durance, who co-authored the paper said: "More and more evidence now shows that some of the worst effects of climate change on natural habitats come from interactions with existing stressors - in this case acid rain. A wider suggestion from our research is that by reducing these other environmental problems, we can minimise at least some climate change impacts."

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Montana oil spill estimate lowered to 30,000 gallons

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Journalist linked to Anonymous gets five years' prison

10 hours ago

A journalist also known as an informal spokesman for the hacker group Anonymous was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday in a case which rallied activists for press freedom, his supporters said.

Drought sees Rio's main hydro plant turned off

10 hours ago

A major Rio hydroelectric power plant was switched off after water levels slipped below an operational minimum following severe drought, Brazil's national grid told AFP on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Carbon accumulation by Southeastern forests may slow

10 hours ago

Carbon accumulation levels in the Southeastern U.S. may be slowing due to forest dynamics and land use changes, according to findings of U.S. Forest Service researchers published in the journal Scientific Reports, Friday ...

Study of new perspective on water management

10 hours ago

Water management should focus more on how robust different areas are in terms of coping with floods and drought. A robust system means that we can deal better with extreme events. High river discharges and long periods of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.