image: A recent study found that rivers are warming up and deoxygenating faster than oceans, which could have serious implications for aquatic life — and the lives of humans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that most Americans reside within a mile of a river or stream. view more
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rivers are warming and losing oxygen faster than oceans, according to a Penn State-led study published today (Sept. 14) in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study shows that of nearly 800 rivers, warming occurred in 87% and oxygen loss occurred in 70%.
The study also projects that within the next 70 years, river systems, especially in the American South, are likely to experience periods with such low levels of oxygen that the rivers could “induce acute death” for certain species of fish and threaten aquatic diversity at large.
“This is a wake-up call,” said Li Li, Penn State’s Isett Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and corresponding author on the paper. “We know that a warming climate has led to warming and oxygen loss in oceans, but did not expect this to happen in flowing, shallow rivers. This is the first study to take a comprehensive look at temperature change and deoxygenation rates in rivers — and what we found has significant implications for water quality and the health of aquatic ecosystems worldwide.”