Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Little Known About Lakes And Climate Change, Says Researcher

Scientists know so little about how storms affect the delicate balance of lake ecosystems that we may be unable to protect them from the effects of climate change, says a NIWA scientist.

Lake scientist Dr Piet Verburg was part of an international team of 39 researchers from 20 countries who carried out a recent review of current knowledge on how lake ecosystems respond to extreme storm events.
They discovered a huge worldwide gap in knowledge.

And that, says Dr Verburg, is scary because as extreme weather events increase with climate change, lakes may change dramatically, threatening ecosystem health and water quality.

The team’s findings have been published today in the journal Global Change Biology.

The scientists reported they cannot confidently predict how lakes will respond to the more frequent and intense storms that are expected in a warming world.

“If extreme weather events significantly change carbon, nutrient, or energy cycling in lakes, we better figure it out quickly,” says Jason Stockwell, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Vermont who led the new research, “because lakes can flip, like a lightbulb, from one healthy state to an unhealthy one—and it can be hard or impossible to flip them back again.”

The new study focused on phytoplankton—microscopic plants commonly known as algae. Phytoplankton are of particular concern because they are the base of the food web and a critical driver of water quality.

In a search of thousands of scientific articles from around the world, the scientists found just 31 studies on 18 lakes that connected storms to freshwater lake conditions, and then to phytoplankton. Not only was the information sparse, but the few available findings were inconsistent.

It became clear that the scientific community has a poor understanding of how phytoplankton respond to storms, or how their responses may differ by storm types, across different lakes, or even at different times of year.

Dr Verburg said none of the 31 papers were about New Zealand lakes and the only related research involved a 1970s paper looking at how macrophytes were uprooted by an intense stormcausing a lake to become more turbid and stopping plants becoming reestablished.

“Research in this area has become urgent – lakes are definitely changing because of climate change and we need to know more about the role of storms in changing them.”

Dr Verburg said it was known that lakes were becoming warmer in New Zealand which for deep lakes meant that typically the shallow warmer water mixed less with the deeper colder water which had flow on effects to the entire ecosystem.

“Again that is something that needs a lot closer investigation. My fears are that the nutrient reductions being planned will not be sufficient and many lakes will become more eutrophic because of climate change effects.”

Dr Verburg has applied for funding to study aspects of climate change effects on Lake Taupo. He and the other scientists involved in the review are calling for a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort.

They suggest several research directions including integrating watershed and lake physical models with biological models to better predict phytoplankton responses to storm-induced changes to lake conditions. The scientists also recommend continued and expanded long-term lake monitoring programs, coupled with networks of electronic high-frequency sensors, to evaluate short-term changes, emergent patterns, and long-term responses of lakes and water quality to storm events.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Paymark: Lockdown Equals Slowdown For Some

The three days of lockdown for Auckland earlier this month made a clear impression on our retail spending figures. While only Auckland moved into Level 3 lockdown, the impact was felt across the country, albeit at different levels. Looking at the ... More>>

Infrastructure Commission: Te Waihanga Releases Report On Water Infrastructure

The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga’s latest discussion document highlights the importance of current reforms in the water sector. Its State of Play discussion document about water infrastructure is one of a series looking at the ... More>>

Sci-Tech: Perseverance Rover Lands On Mars – Expert Reaction

NASA has landed a car-sized rover on the red planet to search for signs of past life. The vehicle has more instruments than the four rovers preceding it, and it’s also carrying gear that could help pave the way for human exploration of Mars. The ... More>>

ALSO:


ASB: Quarterly Economic Forecast Predicts OCR Hike As Early As August 2022

Predictions of interest rate rises have been brought forward 12 months in ASB’s latest Quarterly Economic Forecast. Chief Economist Nick Tuffley now expects the RBNZ to begin raising the OCR from its current level of 0.25% as early as August ... More>>

ACT: Matariki Almost A Half Billion Dollar Tax On Business

“Official advice to the Government says an extra public holiday at Matariki could cost almost $450 million,” ACT Leader David Seymour can reveal. “This is a perfect example of the Prime Minister doing what’s popular versus what’s responsible. ... More>>

Genesis: Assessing 6,000 GWh Of Renewable Generation Options For Development By 2025

Genesis is assessing 6,000 GWh of renewable generation options for development after starting a closed RFP process with 11 partners. Those invited to participate offer a range of technologies as Genesis continues to execute its Future-gen strategy to ... More>>

OECD: Unemployment Rate Stable At 6.9% In December 2020, 1.7 Percentage Points Higher Than In February 2020

The OECD area unemployment rate was stable at 6.9% in December 2020, remaining 1.7 percentage points above the level observed in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the labour market. [1] In December, the unemployment rate was also stable ... More>>

Stats NZ: Unemployment Drops To 4.9 Percent As Employment Picks Up

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent in the December 2020 quarter, from 5.3 percent in the September 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said today. Last quarter’s unemployment rate of 5.3 percent followed the largest increase observed ... More>>