Focus |

Inland waters under threat

Inland aquatic systems connect headwater systems of streams and ponds to rivers and lakes downstream, transporting sediment, nutrients, biota and contaminants. In this web focus, we present a collection of articles and opinion pieces from Nature Geoscience about inland aquatic systems; the hydrological, chemical and biological functions they provide to ecosystems; their influence on biogeochemical cycles and the threats they face due to human demands and climate change.

Review

  • Nature Geoscience | Perspective

    Enhanced protection is needed for freshwater bodies in the United States — in particular impermanent streams and wetlands outside floodplains — according to an assessment of their value and vulnerability.

    • Irena F. Creed
    • , Charles R. Lane
    • , Jacqueline N. Serran
    • , Laurie C. Alexander
    • , Nandita B. Basu
    • , Aram J. K. Calhoun
    • , Jay R. Christensen
    • , Matthew J. Cohen
    • , Christopher Craft
    • , Ellen D'Amico
    • , Edward DeKeyser
    • , Laurie Fowler
    • , Heather E. Golden
    • , James W. Jawitz
    • , Peter Kalla
    • , L. Katherine Kirkman
    • , Megan Lang
    • , Scott G. Leibowitz
    • , David B. Lewis
    • , John Marton
    • , Daniel L. McLaughlin
    • , Hadas Raanan-Kiperwas
    • , Mark C. Rains
    • , Kai C. Rains
    •  &  Lora Smith
  • Nature Geoscience | Perspective

    Many of the world's saline lakes have been shrinking due to consumptive water use. The Great Salt Lake, USA, provides an example for how the health of and ecosystem services provided by saline lakes can be sustained.

    • Wayne A. Wurtsbaugh
    • , Craig Miller
    • , Sarah E. Null
    • , R. Justin DeRose
    • , Peter Wilcock
    • , Maura Hahnenberger
    • , Frank Howe
    •  &  Johnnie Moore
  • Nature Geoscience | Review Article

    Lakes are sources of the greenhouse gas methane. A synthesis of measurements of methane emissions reveals that lakes and ponds above 50 °N emit 16.5 Tg methane annually, and emissions may increase by 20 to 50% with longer ice-free seasons.

    • Martin Wik
    • , Ruth K. Varner
    • , Katey Walter Anthony
    • , Sally MacIntyre
    •  &  David Bastviken
  • Nature Geoscience | Progress Article

    Glaciers and polar ice sheets store and release a small but important pool of organic carbon. The changing climate is making glaciers an increasingly important driver of carbon dynamics in aquatic ecosystems.

    • Eran Hood
    • , Tom J. Battin
    • , Jason Fellman
    • , Shad O'Neel
    •  &  Robert G. M. Spencer
  • Nature Geoscience | Review Article

    A substantial amount of atmospheric carbon taken up on land is transported laterally from upland terrestrial ecosystems to the ocean. A synthesis of the available literature suggests that human activities have significantly increased soil carbon inputs to inland waters, but have only slightly affected carbon delivery to the open ocean.

    • Pierre Regnier
    • , Pierre Friedlingstein
    • , Philippe Ciais
    • , Fred T. Mackenzie
    • , Nicolas Gruber
    • , Ivan A. Janssens
    • , Goulven G. Laruelle
    • , Ronny Lauerwald
    • , Sebastiaan Luyssaert
    • , Andreas J. Andersson
    • , Sandra Arndt
    • , Carol Arnosti
    • , Alberto V. Borges
    • , Andrew W. Dale
    • , Angela Gallego-Sala
    • , Yves Goddéris
    • , Nicolas Goossens
    • , Jens Hartmann
    • , Christoph Heinze
    • , Tatiana Ilyina
    • , Fortunat Joos
    • , Douglas E. LaRowe
    • , Jens Leifeld
    • , Filip J. R. Meysman
    • , Guy Munhoven
    • , Peter A. Raymond
    • , Renato Spahni
    • , Parvadha Suntharalingam
    •  &  Martin Thullner
  • Nature Geoscience | Progress Article

    Rivers may be efficient environments for metabolizing terrestrial organic carbon that was previously thought to be recalcitrant, owing to pockets that provide geophysical opportunities by retaining material for longer, and to the adaptation of microbial communities, which has enabled them to exploit the energy that escapes upstream ecosystems.

    • Tom J. Battin
    • , Louis A. Kaplan
    • , Stuart Findlay
    • , Charles S. Hopkinson
    • , Eugenia Marti
    • , Aaron I. Packman
    • , J. Denis Newbold
    •  &  Francesc Sabater

Research – Environmental influence

  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    The production and consumption of organic carbon in inland waters varies with water residence time and biotic processes, suggest analyses of dissolved organic carbon from Northern Hemisphere water bodies. Inland waters mediate carbon transport between land and ocean.

    • Chris D. Evans
    • , Martyn N. Futter
    • , Filip Moldan
    • , Salar Valinia
    • , Zoe Frogbrook
    •  &  Dolly N. Kothawala
  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    Approximately 8% of the fluvial suspended sediment exported to the world’s oceans comes from rivers draining the Greenland ice sheet, according to an analysis of satellite imagery. Furthermore, the export is dominated by areas where subglacial erosion is high.

    • I. Overeem
    • , B. D. Hudson
    • , J. P. M. Syvitski
    • , A. B. Mikkelsen
    • , B. Hasholt
    • , M. R. van den Broeke
    • , B. P. Y. Noël
    •  &  M. Morlighem
  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    Dissolved inorganic carbon is buried in dryland basins that do not drain to the sea. Based on measurements of sediment chemistry in twelve of these sites, closed basins are estimated to store 0.15 Pg of dissolved inorganic carbon annually.

    • Yu Li
    • , Chengqi Zhang
    • , Naiang Wang
    • , Qin Han
    • , Xinzhong Zhang
    • , Yuan Liu
    • , Lingmei Xu
    •  &  Wangting Ye

Research – Human impacts

  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    Many lakes in China are subject to eutrophication. Water quality analyses on 862 Chinese lakes reveal that better sanitation has reduced phosphorus inputs in the most populated areas, but aquaculture and livestock offset improvements elsewhere.

    • Yindong Tong
    • , Wei Zhang
    • , Xuejun Wang
    • , Raoul-Marie Couture
    • , Thorjørn Larssen
    • , Yue Zhao
    • , Jing Li
    • , Huijiao Liang
    • , Xueyan Liu
    • , Xiaoge Bu
    • , Wei He
    • , Qianggong Zhang
    •  &  Yan Lin
  • Nature Geoscience | Article

    The polygonal patterns in permafrost regions are caused by the formation of ice wedges. Observations of polygon evolution reveal that rapid ice-wedge melting has occurred across the Arctic since 1950, altering tundra hydrology.

    • Anna K. Liljedahl
    • , Julia Boike
    • , Ronald P. Daanen
    • , Alexander N. Fedorov
    • , Gerald V. Frost
    • , Guido Grosse
    • , Larry D. Hinzman
    • , Yoshihiro Iijma
    • , Janet C. Jorgenson
    • , Nadya Matveyeva
    • , Marius Necsoiu
    • , Martha K. Raynolds
    • , Vladimir E. Romanovsky
    • , Jörg Schulla
    • , Ken D. Tape
    • , Donald A. Walker
    • , Cathy J. Wilson
    • , Hironori Yabuki
    •  &  Donatella Zona
  • Nature Geoscience | Letter

    Warming thaws permafrost, releasing carbon that can cause more warming. Radiocarbon, soil carbon, and remote sensing data suggest that 0.2–2.5 Pg of carbon has been emitted from permafrost as CO2 and CH4 around Arctic lakes since the 1950s.

    • Katey Walter Anthony
    • , Ronald Daanen
    • , Peter Anthony
    • , Thomas Schneider von Deimling
    • , Chien-Lu Ping
    • , Jeffrey P. Chanton
    •  &  Guido Grosse
  • Nature Geoscience | Letter

    Most dissolved organic carbon in rivers originates from young carbon in soils and vegetation. A global radiocarbon data set suggests that human disturbance is also introducing aged carbon to rivers and to active carbon cycling.

    • David E. Butman
    • , Henry F. Wilson
    • , Rebecca T. Barnes
    • , Marguerite A. Xenopoulos
    •  &  Peter A. Raymond
  • Nature Geoscience | Letter

    Reservoirs emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases. An analysis of data from 85 globally distributed hydroelectric reservoirs indicates that about 48 Tg carbon is emitted as carbon dioxide and 3 Tg carbon as methane, and that carbon emissions are correlated with reservoir age and latitude.

    • Nathan Barros
    • , Jonathan J. Cole
    • , Lars J. Tranvik
    • , Yves T. Prairie
    • , David Bastviken
    • , Vera L. M. Huszar
    • , Paul del Giorgio
    •  &  Fábio Roland

Comment

  • Nature Geoscience | Editorial

    The world's inland waters are under siege. A system-level view of watersheds is needed to inform both our scientific understanding and management decisions for these precious resources.

  • Nature Geoscience | News & Views

    Debate rages over which water bodies in the US are protected under federal law by the Clean Water Act. Science shows that isolated wetlands and headwater systems provide essential downstream services, but convincing politicians is another matter.

    • Mark A. Ryan
  • Nature Geoscience | Commentary

    Quality requirements for water differ by intended use. Sustainable management of water resources for different uses will not only need to account for demand in water quantity, but also for water temperature and salinity, nutrient levels and other pollutants.

    • Michelle T.H. van Vliet
    • , Martina Flörke
    •  &  Yoshihide Wada
  • Nature Geoscience | News & Views

    Satellite measurements indicate that Greenland's meltwater rivers are exporting one billion tons of sediment annually, a process that is controlled by the sliding rate of glaciers. This rate is nearly 10% of the fluvial sediment discharge to the ocean.

    • Matthew A. Charette
  • Nature Geoscience | News & Views

    Phosphorus loading can cause eutrophication of lakes. Analyses of lake chemistry in China reveal that policies have led to lower phosphorus levels overall, but increasing trends in some lakes suggest that expanded policies may be needed.

    • Jessica Corman
  • Nature Geoscience | Commentary

    The terrestrial water cycle is often assessed annually at catchment scale. But water stored in catchments is poorly mixed, and at timescales often well beyond the calculation of annual water balance.

    • Jeffrey J. McDonnell