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EPFL researchers make a key discovery on how alpine streams work

A study lead by the Stream Biofilm and Ecosystem Research Laboratory (SBER) has prompted scientists to rethink a standard approach used to calculate the velocity of gas exchange between mountain streams and the atmosphere. Research conducted in streams in Vaud and Valais indicate that equations used to predict gas exchange based on data from lowland streams undershoots the actual gas exchange velocity in mountain streams on average by a factor of 100. This research was published in Nature Geoscience. As a second step, the SBER’s researchers, along with a team of international scientists, have performed the first large-scale study of the COemissions of mountain streams and their role in global carbon fluxes. Even though these streams make up just 5% of the global surface area of the fluvial networks, they likely account for 10% to 30% of CO2 emissions from these networks. The scientists’ findings were published in Nature Communications.