Wetlands collect and store more than 20% of carbon dioxide on Earth

Dutch researchers summarized data from previous studies and showed that wet wetlands

most effectively bind and accumulate carbon dioxide.

Scientists have discovered that oceans and forests containthe most carbon dioxide in the world, followed by wetlands. However, on a per square meter basis, wetlands have been found to contain about five times more carbon dioxide than forests and 500 times more than oceans.

This disproportionate share is providedhigh rates of carbon dioxide sequestration per unit area and an efficient storage "system" that far exceeds the capacity of ocean and forest ecosystems, the researchers note.

Scientists say most wetlandsLands are so efficient at storing carbon dioxide because they are formed by plants that grow close together. Their dense above and below ground tangles of stems and roots trap nutrient-rich particles and protect the soil from erosion or drying out—all of which help plants grow better and the soil layer builds up, fixing large amounts of carbon dioxide in the process.

The authors of the work add that there is one moreprocess characteristic of peatlands. The layers of living peat moss on the surface act like sponges, holding on to the vast amount of rainwater that keeps them growing. This leaves a much thicker layer of dead peat moss underwater. This prevents drying, decomposition and release of carbon contained in the lower dead layer of moss back into the atmosphere. As living mosses gradually grow, the amount of carbon stored underground is constantly increasing.

Researchers note that wetlandsare constantly being reduced by agriculture and logging. Every year, about 1% of all land ceases to exist. Scientists have developed and are proposing to implement a program to restore such lands.

If disturbed, these wetlandsemit huge amounts of carbon dioxide from their soils, accounting for about 5% of annual global emissions. Hundreds, even thousands of years of stored carbon is exposed to the air and begins to rapidly decompose with the release of greenhouse gases.

Brian R. Silliman, professor of marine conservation biology at Duke University, study co-author

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