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Rising temperatures affect wetlands and disrupt the water balance

In a future warmer climate, evaporation from the northern hemisphere’s wetlands will increase significantly more than previously thought. This is shown by an international study involving researchers from Lund University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The new discovery provides important knowledge about how the world water balance will be affected in the future.
Research equipment in landscape. Photo.

The availability of water is one of the most vital factors for the functioning of different ecosystems. When the water levels fall due to climate change, it affects wildlife, nature and people. In a new study presented in the research journal, Nature Climate Change, an international research team examined evaporation from boreal areas – parts of the northern hemisphere characterised by coniferous forest and tundra. The study shows that evaporation from the wetlands increases far more than from forested areas in a future warmer climate. This is because the wetlands do not react as the forests do to the air’s so-called vapour pressure deficit – a demand for water vapour – which according to the climate modellers will increase when the temperature rises.

“The higher the temperature, the higher the amount of water vapour that the air can hold before it becomes saturated. As wetlands cannot regulate evaporation as effectively as the forest’s trees, which can close the leaves’ stomata in order to prevent water shortage, the evaporation from the wetlands is much greater when the vapour pressure deficit increases”, says Anders Lindroth, physical geographer at Lund University.

The data that formed the basis for the study comes from 95 climate stations, 13 of which are in Sweden. Several of the stations are part of the two research infrastructures ICOS and SITES, which are co-funded by the Swedish Research Council and institutions involved in the consortia.  

In addition to Lund University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 35 international higher education institutions and organisations were involved in the study.

The article was published in the research journal Nature Climate Change.

Article: "Increasing contribution of peatlands to boreal evapotranspiration in a warming climate" – nature.com

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