JUL 10, 2018 9:41 AM PDT

The unknown mysteries of stormwater ponds

Lay off the stormwater ponds - they’re doing more good than you know! A new study published in the journal Ecosphere negates the previously held belief that stormwater retention ponds are a significant source of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Nitrous oxide is known to cause climate-warming and destroy the stratospheric ozone; scientists have been worried that stormwater ponds, though beneficial in removing excess nitrogen from water systems, produce nitrous oxide as a by-product and that the trade-offs may not be worth it.

"Previous studies have suggested we might find elevated nitrous oxide emissions from these ponds, especially urban ponds where high levels of metal contaminants from road runoff might interfere with the complete reduction of the nitrogen," said Joanna Blaszczak, a 2018 doctoral graduate of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study.

Stormwater retention ponds can be beautiful as well as functional. Photo: miamioh.edu

Through thorough analysis of sediment samples collected from stormwater ponds in Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Portland, Ore., and Durham, N.C., Blaszczak and her team were able to determine that, in fact, that was not the case. "Our research, which looked at 64 retention ponds in eight different cities and ecoregions across the nation, found no apparent trade-off," Blaszczak said.

In order to conduct the experiment, the researchers categorized the ponds by the type of runoff they receive. Some of the ponds they took samples from regularly receive runoff from heavily developed areas; others receive runoff from moderately or lightly developed areas; others were in more rural areas.

"We found there was almost no correlation, no single and simple link, between the intensity of nearby urban land cover and potential denitrification rates, across and within all cities," Blaszczak said. Measurements of nitrous oxide levels were fairly consistent throughout, equivalent to those rates found in freshwater bodies draining undeveloped landscapes. "This leads us to conclude that urban stormwater ponds are not likely to be important sources of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere," she said.

That being said, there is still much to learn about the chemical and biophysical processes that occur within a stormwater pond. "Many of our team's starting assumptions about how sediment chemistry would change with changing urban land use proved to be untrue," Blaszczak explains. "That's probably because urban ponds reflect previous land-use history as well as current land-use strategies. We're only beginning to figure it all out."

What we do know, it that stormwater ponds continue to be important in regulating levels of excess nitrogen in waterways. Their ability to filter out pollutants are crucial for many companies, factories, office buildings, and residential complexes. Want to learn more about stormwater ponds? Watch the video below!

Sources: Science Daily, Ecosphere

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 03, 2022
Cardiology
Cardiovascular diseases could see sharp increase in US by 2060
AUG 03, 2022
Cardiovascular diseases could see sharp increase in US by 2060
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a collaborative research team from the ...
AUG 17, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The Wreck of The Endurance Has Been Discovered in Antarctica
AUG 17, 2022
The Wreck of The Endurance Has Been Discovered in Antarctica
The expedition of Endurance was one of the legends. It is one of the most harrowing survival stories in naval history.
AUG 24, 2022
Plants & Animals
Threat Assessment of U.S Trees Provides Blueprint for Conservation Efforts
AUG 24, 2022
Threat Assessment of U.S Trees Provides Blueprint for Conservation Efforts
Extinction rates have accelerated around the globe. Changes in climate and habitat loss, in particular, are driving more ...
SEP 02, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
How to harvest really good cannabis
SEP 02, 2022
How to harvest really good cannabis
What's the secret to growing a great crop of cannabis? There's several factors.
SEP 02, 2022
Plants & Animals
Bumblebee Survival Negatively Impacted by Early Onset of Spring
SEP 02, 2022
Bumblebee Survival Negatively Impacted by Early Onset of Spring
Bumblebees have been all the buzz lately. Headlines abound about how bumblebee populations continue to decline across th ...
SEP 24, 2022
Technology
Engineers Use Nanophotonic Materials to Improve VR and 3D Displays
SEP 24, 2022
Engineers Use Nanophotonic Materials to Improve VR and 3D Displays
In a recent study published in Advanced Optical Materials, a team of researchers led by Rice University discovered a met ...
Loading Comments...