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Global warming is evaporating Arctic ponds, new study shows

ds for 24 years, the researchers have also reconstructed ecological trends over the past several thousand years in some of the ponds, using paleoecological techniques. In a controversial 1994 paper published in the journal Science, they showed that the ponds existed for millennia, but that, beginning in the 19th century, they underwent marked ecological changes, consistent with warming.

We had a bit of a rough ride with that paper for a few years, but now there is almost universal scientific consensus concerning our 1994 conclusions, says Dr. Douglas. In 2005, she and Dr. Smol, along with 24 co-authors, used similar techniques to document widespread ecological changes, consistent with warming, across the circumpolar Arctic.

However, the ecological changes recorded in the 1994 study pale in comparison to those noted in the current paper, where some sites had completely dried up by July.

While some subarctic lakes have recently disappeared because the permafrost that formed a largely waterproof barrier has melted, this is not the case here, say Drs. Smol and Douglas. Instead, the high Arctic ponds are evaporating due to warming. By measuring changes in water quality over their 24-year sampling window, they have shown that the concentration of salts has been steadily increasing.

Using the analogy of a pot of soup simmering on a stove, Dr. Smol explains: If you take the lid off, it is similar to what we are observing in these ponds. The soup will slowly decrease in volume and it will get saltier and saltier as the water evaporates, leaving the salts behind. The same process is happening with the Cape Herschel ponds, he continues. Water levels are declining and the remaining water is more concentrated with evaporation due to warming.

Another disturbing finding was the drying-up of neighbouring wetlands. In the 1980s, portions of their study region were also characterized by water-saturated wetlands, where the team wou
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Contact: Nancy Dorrance
nancy.dorrance@queensu.ca
613-533-2869
Queen's University
2-Jul-2007


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