Prof. Steven Loiselle, Research Manager at Earthwatch, reports on sessions at the HydroEco conference in Vienna, where he is presenting our latest FreshWater Watch findings.
An important session I attended this morning was dedicated to the impact of urbanisation on aquatic ecosystems, and the growing attention being given to these impacts by local, national and international governments.
There were several presentations showing that the increased impermeabilization (‘to make impermeable’) of surfaces caused by urban expansion has caused significant impacts on fresh water quality and quantity, in particular after heavy rain events.
A new approach
Dr. Hans Shreier (University of British Columbia) showed how the city of Vancouver is taking a new approach, beginning with the homeowner, to try to reduce the increased runoff of pollutants by increasing storage and infiltration.
Dr. Thomas Hein (University of Natural Resources and Life Science, Austria) demonstrated how Austria is dealing with a similar problems across the Danube catchment.
Prof. Xiangzheng Deng (Chinese Academy of Sciences ) presented how these increases in pollutants after heavy rainfall is a high priority in much of northeast China. (He also asked me why there are not yet any CSL measurements in Beijing!)
The FreshWater Watch results that I presented contributed to the discussion and our understanding of these dynamics, in particular how freshwater ecosystems behave before, during and after rain events.
Take a look yourself at the changes that occur after a rainy period in your measurements. Your insights and measurements are helping an important international priority.
There were several sessions dedicated to research into the role of freshwater ecosystems in global climate change.
Streams and ponds act as biological reactors, receiving organic carbon from the surrounding catchment and converting it into inorganic carbon, including carbon dioxide. Furthermore, they can be collection and storage areas for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus as well as carbon.
Globally, they convert as much carbon as the carbon dioxide uptake of the world’s oceans.
Scientists are making a concerted effort to examine how changes in land use and pollution influence the chemical and biological functioning of aquatic ecosystems.
Inflows of nitrate and phosphate from nonpoint pollution sources, in particular agricultural activities, have changed the way most of our freshwater ecosystems function, in particular their role in the capture and emission of carbon.
Prof. William Mitsch (Florida Gulf Coast University) showed how the agricultural activities in the upper Mississippi influence water quality and algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 1000 km away.
He further showed how wetlands and small water bodies can make an extremely valuable contribution to limiting these pollution dynamics.
Major efforts to restore or create ex-novo wetlands are being made across the globe, as Masatoshi Denga (Public Works Research Institute, Tokyo) showed.
The work of Citizen Science Leaders
Citizen Science Leader observations of pollution sources and local land use are helping Freshwater Watch scientists to understand how our local ecosystems contribute to these global mechanisms.
Your measurements of turbidity and nutrients help to understand the local impacts of the activities that are occurring in your local catchment.
And finally, a longstanding Earthwatch scientist, Prof. Josef Krecek, reported interesting results from his 20+ years of research on the changes in aquatic and terrestrial environments of the Jizerka mountain in the Czech Republic. His research showed the impact of atmospheric deposition and climate change on trees, plants, invertebrates and fish, with extremely interesting temporal dynamics over the course of these two decades.
Prof. Krecek made repeated references to the work of Earthwatch participants in his research. It’s fantastic to have such a great legacy with our Earthwatch scientists.
HydroEco2015 – 5th Int. Conference, is taking place in Vienna, Austria, 13-16 April.