Glasgow ponds are playing a role in a major new international study to measure greenhouse gas emissions. 

The study is seeking to better understand the scale on which methane and carbon dioxide are emitted from smaller water bodies like ponds. 

It is estimated that shallow waters contribute around 5% of global methane emissions to the atmosphere, however the true number could in fact be twice that percentage.

Five of Glasgow’s ponds are being sampled as part of the study, with the aim of painting a more accurate picture of actual emissions level, thus enabling a more accurate representation of this area of the climate crisis and enabling policy to be made accordingly. 

The sampled ponds span from across the city: Bingham Pond off Great Western Road, as well as waters in Auchinlea Park in Easterhouse, Maxwell and Queen’s Park in the southside, and Robroyston Park. 

Dr Law, himself from Glasgow, is a lecturer in nature-based solutions at the University of Stirling and was charged with conducting the research in Glasgow’s waters. The scientist described how he sparked interest in the work from the city’s locals he encountered in the parks while he was floating on the ponds in a kayak, carrying out the emissions measurements. 

“When I was out in the water in my kayak, I would get people shouting at me from the water’s edge, asking me what I was up to. Fortunately, most of them were friendly and it gave me an opportunity to talk to people about how ponds across the world emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change,” said Dr Law.

The Glasgow ponds are the only Scottish waters to be sampled as part of the study, which saw scientists measure 30 small lakes and ponds in areas across Europe and North America characterised by mild temperatures. The overall international study is being led by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, an Ivy League institution in the state of New York. 

Dr Law sampled each of the Glaswegian ponds on three separate occasions and in three different locations: the deepest points, along with two other points on opposite sides of the water body. The samples were then analysed in a University of Stirling laboratory before being shipped stateside to Cornell.

The lack of mapping data in some locations means it is impossible just to know how many water bodies like lakes exist in the world, and thus the extent of greenhouse gas emissions. This new study hopes to provide a clearer representation on this area of climate change.

Dr Law said: “The study helps us understand the drivers of greenhouse gas concentrations, and importantly, what makes some ponds more variable in their concentrations. This is important because carbon dioxide and methane act as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, trapping heat that warms the planet and changes the climate over time.”