A ditched coastal marsh in the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington, Conneticut. Credit: John Andrew Nyman (Figure 4.3 in Wetland Carbon and Environmental Management)

Managing Wetlands to Improve Carbon Sequestration

Nov 16, 2021 at 5:20pm

Ken W. Krauss, Zhiliang Zhu and Camille L. Stagg

Wetlands are vital natural assets, capable of taking up atmospheric carbon and restricting subsequent carbon loss to facilitate long-term storage. They can be deliberately managed to provide a natural solution to mitigate climate change, as well as to help offset direct losses of wetlands from various land-use changes and natural drivers. A new book in AGU’s Geophysical Monograph Series, Wetland Carbon and Environmental Management, presents wetland research studies from around the world to demonstrate how environmental management can improve carbon sequestration while enhancing wetland health and function.

What is the relationship between wetlands and carbon?

Like all plants, wetland plants take up carbon from air in the form of carbon dioxide and store that carbon in plant biomass. Storage of carbon in tree biomass can occur for many years, but is often restricted to annual cycles for non-woody (herbaceous) plants. However, much of the woody and herbaceous plant carbon is also stored belowground within complex and dense roots.

Very similar to leaves or herbaceous plant biomass, roots are produced, die, and are replaced by new roots over short periods of time. In non-wetland ecosystems, roots that die often decompose quickly, because they are exposed to readily available oxygen, and during that process much of the carbon is released back to air as carbon dioxide.

However, because wetland soils are wet, oxygen is not readily available to facilitate decomposition. Roots that die decompose slowly while new roots continue to be produced, which leads to accumulation of organic matter in the soil. Carbon makes up approximately 50 percent of this organic matter.

Continue reading the article from Eos - Science News by AGU here