What happens to streams when the earth gets warmer?

Stream in a tropical forest.

Stream in a tropical forest.

If the Earth warms up by 1 degree Celsius, freshwater streams could feel the effects. Streams play a key role in the exchange of carbon and the movement of nutrients needed for wildlife to thrive.

An international team of researchers studied six areas around the world from the tropics to the arctic. Here’s what they found:

  • Regardless of where on Earth they are found, streams react in a similar way to a climb in temperatures.
  • Streams could to lose 23.6 percent of their carbon productivity with a 1-degree-Celsius rise in temperature.
  • This could lead to a decreased supply of nutrients for wildlife that depend on the streams.

“It’s like a person with a fever – they’re not working optimally,” said ecologist John Kominoski, a co-author of the study and researcher in FIU’s Institute of Water and Environment. “Streams could become sick if they’re not enhancing their energy production at the same rate as they’re losing it. They won’t collapse, but they’ll continue to be stressed.”

The findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.