Team predicts environmental impacts of increased desalination and climate change in the Gulf region by 2050

3 day-one It was removed because it was incomplete and there was no expansion plan. Data2. Map produced with Python 3.10.6: Credit: Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-25167-5″ width=”800″ height=”496″/>

(a) Bathymetry of the Gulf region according to the GEBCO 2021 dataset. Altitude zero is marked in light blue, -30 m isobate dark blue. Existing and future (under construction, approved and planned by 2030) desalination plants striking the Bay are marked with circles and hexagonal markers, respectively. The mark area is proportional to the desalination capacity of the plant. Facilities closer than ~10 km are represented as a single facility with combined capacity. (b) Current and future desalination capacity per country. Oman was excluded because the desalination capacity in the Gulf is only 5150 m.3 day-one, no expansion plans. Data2. Map produced with Python 3.10.6: Credit: Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-25167-5

A team of researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arabian Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences (ACCESS) and the Water Research Center has examined how increased use of desalination technologies will impact salinity across the Gulf in the coming years as predicted climate change.

Countries bordering the Persian Gulf are the world’s largest users of desalination technologies to meet their freshwater needs. Increased desalination will release more hypersaline (high saline) brine into the Bay, and it is unclear what impact this will have on the Gulf’s marine ecosystems and fisheries.

In the article titled “Long-term, basin-scale salinity effects, desalination in the Arabian/Persian Gulf”, Scientific Reports, the researchers found that even in the worst climate change and predicted desalination scenario, salinity increases will be within the range of natural salinity variation due to evaporation. Therefore, these minor salinity changes are not expected to have Gulf-scale environmental impacts, as marine life adapts to high and variable natural salinity.

A key finding was that any increase in salinity would lead to a corresponding increase in runoff in the Strait of Hormuz, leading to faster regeneration of the Gulf waters. Consequently, even in extreme case scenarios, basin-scale salinity increases are not predicted to exceed a level that would have a significant impact on the Gulf’s marine life such as flora and fauna because these salinity levels are so close. The natural range of variability to which organisms in the Gulf are already exposed.

The occurrence of hypoxia with low or depleted oxygen levels in a body of water appears to pose a greater threat to marine life, both in the deepest parts of the Gulf and in shallow reefs, as documented in these authors’ previous papers. and others at NYUAD, conditions unrelated to desalination brine discharge.

While other modeling studies have attempted to predict basin-wide salinity increase due to desalination, this is the first model of its kind to also consider the possible future effects of climate change. As the Gulf region is home to the largest desalination plant complexes in the world and 45% of global freshwater desalination production, it is important to consider the long-term implications of this industry. Collected data on expected salinity levels in Gulf coastal waters can guide future research into other effects of widespread desalination, such as the economic effects of changes in the fishing industry.

“Our team’s research provides valuable and new insights into the implications of this critical industry for the Gulf region,” said Francesco Paparella, Principal Investigator of the NYUAD Arab Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences. “We have developed a reliable model that allows us to predict changes in salinity over the next few decades, improving the ability of our team and the larger scientific community to identify ways to better protect our ecosystems.”

“The Gulf is naturally an extreme marine system and we are using an increasing amount of its waters for desalination purposes. This raises concerns about whether this will have ecological consequences, especially in a rapidly changing climate era,” said John Burt. Co-Chief Investigator at NYUAD Water Research Center and Arab Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences.

“The results of this study show that salinity is increasing even under the worst climate projections, and that increased desalination in the coming decades will have only negligible effects on salinity at the Gulf-wide scale and are within normal limits,” Burt said. Seasonal variations in salinity to which organisms are presently exposed. While we need more research on processes occurring at more local scales around desalination plants, these results suggest there is little cause for concern about salinity increase at the Gulf-wide scale.”

More information:
Long-term, basin-scale salinity effects from desalination in the Arabian/Persian Gulf, Francesco Paparella et al. Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-25167-5

Provided by New York University

Quotation: Team estimates environmental impacts of increased desalination and climate change in the Gulf region by 2050 (2022, Dec. 12), 12 Dec 2022 Retrieved from -desalination- climate.html

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