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Fielding questions about climate change
Date:3/14/2012

remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But there has been a worrying decrease in dissolved oxygen concentrations found in certain coastal environments and this trend is expanding. Locations once teeming with life are slowly becoming what are known as "dead zones" in which oxygen levels in the surface sediment are becoming increasingly depleted. That familiar culprit, man-made pollution, is behind the change.

Major rivers regularly discharge pollutants from agricultural fertilizers and human waste directly into lake and coastal environments, leading to a greater abundance of plankton. These living organisms are killed off at a greater rate and more organic carbon is sinking to the bottom waters, causing even greater consumption of dissolved oxygen. This makes the problem of low dissolved oxygen levels even worse. If the amount of oxygen in an aquatic environment decreases beyond a certain point, iron oxides stop being produced, thus robbing that environment of a large fraction of its natural ability to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But there is hope. "This study also represents an indirect plea towards reducing the quantities of fertilizers and other nutrient-rich contaminants discharged in aquatic systems" explains Lalonde, who Glinas credits with much of the work behind this elemental study. She hopes that better understanding the iron-organic carbon stabilizing mechanism could "eventually lead to new ways of increasing the rate of organic carbon burial in sediments."


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Contact: Clea Desjardins
clea.desjardins@concordia.ca
514-848-2424 x5068
Concordia University
Source:Eurekalert

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