September 21, 2023

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Science is worth exploring

Earth’s lots of new lakes — ScienceDaily

The variety of lakes on our earth has amplified significantly in new decades, in accordance to a distinctive world study of 3.4 million lakes that the University of Copenhagen has taken section in. There has been a distinct boost in the amount of compact lakes, which however, emit substantial quantities of greenhouse fuel. The improvement is of fantastic relevance for Earth’s carbon account, worldwide ecosystems, and human accessibility to drinking water methods.

Microbes and fungi feeding on dead vegetation and animals at the base of a lake emit large quantities of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases. Some of these gases end up in the environment. This system brings about lakes to act like greenhouse fuel factories. In fact, freshwater lakes in all probability account for 20% of all international CO2 fossil gasoline emissions into Earth’s environment. Forecasts suggest that local climate change will result in lakes to emit an at any time-larger share of greenhouse gases in the long run.

This is just a person of the motives why it is crucial to know how numerous and how large these lakes are, as perfectly as how they acquire. Right up until now, this facts was unfamiliar. Scientific researchers from the University of Copenhagen and other universities have now well prepared a additional accurate and specific map of the world’s lakes than has at any time existed. The scientists mapped 3.4 million lakes and their evolution around the earlier four decades utilizing high-resolution satellite imagery combined with synthetic intelligence.

The survey shows that in between 1984 and 2019, the spot of international lake surfaces grew by above 46,000 km2 — a little bit additional than the area place of Denmark.

“There have been big and swift changes with lakes in latest many years that have an effect on greenhouse gasoline accounts, as well as ecosystems and obtain to h2o means. Amid other factors, our newfound knowledge of the extent and dynamics of lakes allows us to much better determine their possible carbon emissions,” explains Jing Tang, an Assistant Professor at the Section of Biology and co-creator of the review, which is now printed in Nature Communications.

In accordance to the study’s calculations, the yearly enhance of CO2 emissions from lakes all through the period of time is 4.8 teragrams (10^12, trillion) of carbon — which equals to the CO2 emission boost of the United Kingdom in 2012.

Modest lakes, huge CO2 emissions

Far more and a lot more tiny lakes (<1 km2) have appeared since 1984. The number of these small lakes is especially important according to the researchers, because they emit the most greenhouse gas in relation to their size. While small lakes account for just 15% of total lake area, they account for 25% of CO2 and 37% of methane emissions. Furthermore, they also contribute to 45% and 59% of the net increases of the lake CO2 and CH4 emissionsover the period 1984-2019.

“Small lakes emit a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases because they typically accumulate more organic matter, which is converted into gases. And also, because they are often shallow. This makes it easier for gases to reach the surface and up into the atmosphere,” explains Jing Tang, who continues:

“At the same time, small lakes are much more sensitive to changes in climate and weather, as well as to human disturbances. As a result, their sizes and water chemistry fluctuate greatly. Thus, while it is important to identify and map them, it is also more demanding. Fortunately, we’ve been able to do justify that.”

The mapping also reveals that there are two main reasons for Earth’s many new lakes: climate change and human activities. Reservoirs account for more than half of increased lake area — i.e., artificial lakes. The other half are primarily created by melting glaciers or thawing permafrost.

New figures sent to the UN

According to the researchers, the new dataset offers a range of regional and global applications.

“I have sent our new greenhouse gas emission estimates to the people responsible for calculating the global carbon budget, those who are behind the UN’s IPCC climate reports. I hope they include them in updating the global emission numbers,” says Jing Tang.

She adds:

“Furthermore, the dataset can be used to make better estimates of water resources in freshwater lakes and to better assess the risk of flooding, as well as for better lake management — because lake area impacts biodiversity too.”


  • In the study, researchers mapped 3.4 million lakes (with the lowest lake size down to 0.03 km2) and how their sizes developed between 1984-1999, 2000-2009 and 2010-2019.
  • The GLAKES dataset constructed in this study is based on high-resolution satellite imagery and a deep learning algorithm. The dataset is publicly available.
  • The research results have been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
  • The first authors of the study are Xuehui Pi and Qiuqi Luo from Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China and The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China.
  • Yang Xu, Rasmus Fensholt and Martin Brandt of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management also contributed to the study.


  • 49.8% of the total global lakes and 23.6% of the global lake area lies above the 60th parallel north.
  • Lakes created by melting glaciers or thawing permafrost make up 30% of the world’s lake area. Hotspots for these types of lakes include Greenland, the Tibetan Plateau, and the Rocky Mountains.
  • Also observed during the period under review, were lakes that shrank due to drought and the consumption of water resources, among other things. These were observed across the Western US, Central Asia, Northern China, Southern Australia and elsewhere.