AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – A new study led by Auburn University researchers shows a four-fold increase in emissions of a key greenhouse gas in global streams and rivers. The study looked at nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas and a major contributor to climate warming.
The new study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Dec. 23.
“Nitrogen loads on headwater streams and groundwater from human activities, primarily agricultural nitrogen applications, play a significant role in the increase of global riverine nitrous oxide emissions,” said lead scientist Professor Hanqin Tian, director of the International Center for Climate and Global Change Research in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
Tian says study presents an improved model representation of nitrogen and nitrous oxide processes of the land-ocean aquatic continuum.
The study, “Increased global nitrous oxide emissions from streams and rivers in the Anthropocene,” is the work of Tian and scientists from the International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, along with Josep G. Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project.
Canadell says nitrous oxide is considered the “unspoken greenhouse gas” because of its food production, which no one wants to compromise.
In the study, researchers provided new measurements for the way changes in nitrogen inputs—including fertilizer, deposition and manure, climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and terrestrial processes—have affected nitrous oxide emissions from the world’s streams and rivers since 1900.