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SLU to predict impact of climate change on U.S. rivers

(Photo credit: UPI)

By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding close to $250,000 to Saint Louis University to predict the impacts of climate change on freshwater resources.

EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks says the research will evaluate how a changing climate could alter the quantity of water in U.S. rivers and streams, and the availability of habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

"That will allow EPA, other regulators, other American businesses to say OK, if climate change continues to develop in these ways, at these rates, we can anticipate these changes in the water resources available to us."

Brooks says SLU's predictions will help EPA protect drinking water supplies and ensure that land use practices do not harm water quality.

SLU biologist and lead researcher Jason Knouft says the study will compare the potential effects of climate change on aquatic habitat in Illinois and Alabama. The Illinois landscape is dominated by agriculture, while Alabama has more forests.

Knouft says that areas with little natural vegetation along rivers and streams are more susceptible to flooding. "Maybe we'll see that in Illinois we get a lot more floods as climate changes, relative to what we would expect in Alabama."

Knouft says the EPA-funded research will focus on predicting how climate-driven changes in the amount of water in rivers and streams will affect populations of fish, crayfish, and mussels.

The EPA is providing $16 million in grants to 23 universities across the country to assess the possible impacts of climate change on human health and the environment.