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Ancient Arctic Ponds Drying Up as Climate Warms

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Ancient Arctic Ponds Drying Up as Climate Warms ... US: July 4, 2007 CHICAGO - Ancient ponds in the Arctic are drying up during the polar summer as warmer
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2007
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      Ancient Arctic Ponds Drying Up as Climate Warms
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      US: July 4, 2007

      CHICAGO - Ancient ponds in the Arctic are drying up during the polar
      summer as warmer temperatures evaporate shallow bodies of water,
      Canadian researchers said on Monday.


      They said the evaporation of these ponds -- some of which have been
      around for thousands of years -- illustrates the rapid effects of
      global warming, threatening bird habitats and breeding grounds and
      reducing drinking water for animals.
      For the past 24 years, researchers at the University of Alberta in
      Edmonton and Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, have been
      tracking ponds at Cape Herschel, located on the east coast of
      Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, formerly the Northwest Territories of
      Canada.

      Last year, when they went back to check, some of these 6,000-year-old
      ponds had vanished.

      "We were surprised. We arrived in early to mid-July and the ponds we
      had been monitoring were dry. Some of them had dried up completely.
      Some were just about to lose the last remaining centimeters of
      water," said Marianne Douglas, director of the Canadian Circumpolar
      Institute at the University of Alberta.

      "It's really interesting to see how quickly it is happening. We could
      see this trend had started a while ago but at no time did we expect
      it to accelerate," said Douglas, whose work appears in the journal
      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

      Douglas said a study of the fossilized sediments in these pools of
      water -- which are less than 6.6 feet (2 metres) deep -- showed
      climate changes beginning as long as 150 years ago.

      The researchers had thought these ponds were permanent. But change
      has come rapidly.

      "It is a bit of a tipping point. We don't know how far this warming
      or drying will go," she said in a telephone interview.

      Douglas, John Smol of Queen's University and colleagues took water
      samples to measure the concentration of minerals and sediments in the
      water. They compared it to data from the 1980s and found a
      significant change.

      Evaporation had made the sediments much more concentrated.

      They also discovered that ponds that formerly remained frozen until
      mid-July were free of ice as early as late May.

      "No small wonder that we are seeing evaporation occurring," she
      said. "An extra month is tremendously long up there where the growing
      season is so short."

      The changes will have significant impact on the birds and animals
      that rely on these sources of fresh water to survive and breed.

      "The ecological ramifications of these changes ... will cascade
      throughout the Arctic ecosystem. ... Lower water levels will have
      many indirect environmental effects, such as further concentration of
      pollutants," they wrote.


      http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42934/story.htm
      Story by Julie Steenhuysen
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