Science Special - Wetland Restoration

Welcome to Science Special! The weekly post where we bring you the best research and reports on different carbon removal technologies. This week's topic is wetland restoration: 

The simple process of photosynthesis on a grand scale can benefit the world’s push to reduce and remove carbon. Wetlands can be particularly helpful in this quest since their saturated soils prevent the decay of biomass, effectively storing carbon in large quantities. Of the original 221 million acres in the United States, less than 50% of wetlands remain today. Yet, destroying these ecosystems is not just preventing future carbon sequestration, it is also releasing an estimated 450 million tons of carbon per year for coastal wetlands alone. Thus, preserving and restoring wetlands ecosystems provides a huge opportunity to remove past CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. Read more about the carbon value, ecosystem benefits, and uncertainties about wetland restoration as a carbon removal solution below.

Source: NOAA

Source: NOAA

Functions and Values of Wetlands - This factsheet from the EPA describes the benefits of wetlands beyond carbon, benefits such as water storage, water filtration, and biological productivity. This factsheet also describes more of these benefits by exploring how wetlands protect surrounding areas from storms and floods.  

Wetlands, Carbon and Climate Change - This research paper explores the carbon benefit of wetlands by examining one of the main challenges facing wetland restoration for carbon removal. It describes the GHG fluxes that occur over time, ultimately showing that carbon sequestration over time is much greater than the initial methane release in the first few years of restoration. The paper emphasizes the context-specificity of the benefits of wetland restoration by showing differences in the size of carbon sinks between fourteen different restoration sites. Finally, the paper estimates that current global wetlands remove up to 830 Mt C per year.

Coastal “blue” carbon - This report was released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature with the help of the the Nicholas Institute at Duke University, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and Wetlands International. The report serves as a guide to support coastal wetland projects and discusses best practices on how to finance them.  

State of the Science on Coastal Blue Carbon: A Summary for Policy Makers - The Nicholas Institute has put together a report that summarizes relevant data on coastal wetlands for the purpose of carbon sequestration. The report summarizes the science behind blue carbon and then explores three types of wetlands in more detail: mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass.