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: Climate rhetoric faces devil in the detail at Lima talks

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Preparing for alien life

Nov 10, 2014

At a recent event sponsored by NASA and the Library of Congress, a group of scientists and scholars explored how we might prepare for the inevitable discovery of life beyond Earth.

New global maps detail human-caused ocean acidification

Nov 10, 2014

A team of scientists has published the most comprehensive picture yet of how acidity levels vary across the world's oceans, providing a benchmark for years to come as enormous amounts of human-caused carbon ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

Sep 19, 2014

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

Recommended for you

Gold rush an ecological disaster for Peruvian Amazon

18 hours ago

A lush expanse of Amazon rainforest known as the "Mother of God" is steadily being destroyed in Peru, with the jungle giving way to mercury-filled tailing ponds used to extract the gold hidden underground.

Australia out of step with new climate momentum

20 hours ago

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power in large part by opposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, is finding his country isolated like never before on climate change as the U.S., China ...

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.