A Source of CO2 That Might Surprise You

That babbling brook out back has been holding out on you

A satellite view of the Mississippi River shows a mosaic of riverbank land-use patterns.

Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing a lot more CO2 into the atmosphere than scientists previously thought, according to a new study by scientists at Yale. In fact, American waterways are discharging the gas into the atmosphere at a rate of 100 million metric tons per year, an amount equal to a car burning 40 billion gallons of gas, researchers say.

The study, conducted by David Butman and Peter Raymond of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, looked at water chemistry data from more than 4,000 rivers and streams. The authors say identifying this significant source of CO2 could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon through ecosystems and the atmosphere.

“These rivers breathe a lot of carbon,” said Butman in a press release from the National Science Foundation, one of the study’s funders. “They are a source of carbon dioxide, just like we breathe out carbon dioxide and like smokestacks emit carbon dioxide.”

The study is published in the current issue of Nature Geoscience.

Federal Budget Pressure on Rivers, Wetlands

Witnesses tell an Assembly committee that looming federal cuts would leave state programs adrift

The Yolo Bypass, with Sacramento in the background. (Photo: Craig Miller)

An array of state programs to protect and restore rivers and wetlands is endangered by current plans to cut funding on Capitol Hill. That’s what a string of witnesses told the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee in Sacramento this week.

At risk are programs that have leveraged federal money to restore hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat in California, according to speakers for environmental and outdoor groups.

For a nearby example of how federal funds have been used, waterfowl advocate Bill Gaines pointed to the Yolo Bypass, almost within sight of the state Capitol. Gaines, president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, said that over ten years, $5 million in federal money has fueled restoration of 4,300 acres of wildlife habitat. Continue reading