Glacial rivers ‘could absorb carbon dioxide faster than the Amazon rainforest’

New research suggests rather than all rivers being sources of carbon emissions, some can actually act as carbon sinks

Glacial rivers can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a rate faster than the Amazon rainforest.

New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that rather than all rivers being sources of carbon emissions, some can actually act as carbon sinks.

Meltwater samples from Canada’s Ellesmere Island, as well as from the Rocky Mountains and Greenland, showed that weathering processes in the river mix different particles together, often causing reactions to take place in the water – some of these particles are carbon dioxide gas, which can be absorbed into other materials such as silicate and carbonate.

It notes in temperate rivers, the high volume of organic material such as plant life and fish results in higher levels of decomposition, meaning these bodies of water emit far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they capture – as glacial rivers are home to much less aquatic life, this does not apply to them.

Researched concluded that during high melt periods, the water in glacial rivers is able to absorb up to 40 times as much carbon dioxide as the Amazon rainforest, in terms of surface area.

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