Étudiant-chercheur étoile September 2014

Jean-François Lapierre

PhD student in Biological Sciences
Université du Québec à Montréal

Award-winning publication: Increases in terrestrially derived carbon stimulate organic carbon processing and CO2 emissions in boreal aquatic ecosystems

Published inNature Communications, 2013-12


"This empirical study of unparalleled scope made it possible to update long-held paradigms on the degradability of organic carbon in aquatic environments. Freshwater is now recognized for its major contribution to global carbon budgets[1], and, in response to climatic and environmental changes, terrestrial organic carbon concentrations are gradually increasing across the boreal ecosystem. Our study combines these two aspects and demonstrates that the rise in organic carbon will lead to a spike in CO2 emissions from lakes, rivers and wetlands in the boreal ecosystem."

Jean-François Lapierre's research reveals that, in addition to increasing drinking water treatment costs, an upsurge in organic carbon in surface water leads to net losses in terrestrial carbon to the atmosphere—carbon that was believed to be stored long term in soil. In Québec, surface water emits almost as much CO2 as all the cars on the roads, and greenhouse gases constitute an increasingly critical environmental issue. It therefore seems probable that the phenomenon will impact provincial and continental carbon balances and that human activities that foster the export of organic carbon to surface water could alter the natural carbon cycle, possibly adding to the total CO2 emissions brought about by human activity, which, in current balances, are chiefly associated with fossil fuel consumption.

[1] Balance of carbon exchanges between carbon pools (e.g. the atmosphere and the biosphere)