Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wetland Restoration: The Best Alternative to Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies?

wetland photo
Image from doortoriver

While widespread wetland destruction could unleash the mother of all "carbon bombs," scientists are discovering that the restoration of these vulnerable ecosystems could provide a valuable bulwark to climate change by creating a worldwide network of potent carbon sinks. A $12.3 million research project to capture and store carbon by growing tules and cattails in wetlands launched by the U.S. Geological Survey this summer has already shown some promising results, according to Environmental Science & Technology's Janet Pelley:

The USGS project has captured eye-popping amounts of carbon—an average of 3000 grams of carbon per square meter per year (g-C/m2/yr) over the past 5 years. For comparison, reforested agricultural land, eligible for carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, socks away carbon at a rate much less than 100 g-C/m2/yr, says Gail Chmura, a biogeochemist at McGill University (Canada).

tules photo
Image from Dvortygirl

Saltwater marshes provide biggest cooling potential
The USGS researchers determined that saltwater marshes provided the most bang for the buck. Wetlands are great at storing carbon dioxide because of their near-constant water cover, which prevents oxygen from entering the muddy soil; this effectively keeps bacterial decomposition, a process which releases a lot of CO2 (this is one of the reasons why permafrost thawing is so worrisome), to a minimum.

In fact, unperturbed wetlands are so effective that their peat soils can sometimes be 60 ft deep and over 7,000 years old. The project, which started out in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, will be expanded to determine whether the restored wetlands can help regain the land elevation lost when the delta island was drained a century ago and to see whether "wetland carbon credits" could be sold on the state's upcoming carbon market.

Concerns remain over methane release
This all sounds well and good, but some scientists are urging caution, pointing out that the project has yet to provide reliable figures for the amount of methane emissions being released. Though they may not cancel out the beneficial cooling effects of the wetlands' carbon storage, the emission levels could still be relatively significant -- especially on a large scale.

One reason for concern, according to University of Florida biogeochemist Ramesh Reddy, is that the same low oxygen to anoxic conditions that favor carbon storage also favor the release of methane. Even if the bacteria can't access oxygen, they can use iron oxides, CO2 or sulfate as sources of electron acceptors. Using CO2 produces methane emissions.

This makes saltwater marshes all the more appealing, says Chmura:

Because saltwater is high in sulfate, microbes in saltwater marshes don’t have to use CO2 as an electron acceptor, and therefore they produce negligible amounts of methane, Chmura says. She estimates that North American salt marshes sequester an average of 210 g-C/m2/yr. These hefty rates, along with an ability to accrete carbon faster as the sea level rises, make saltwater marshes ideal sites for restoration and carbon storage, she says.

Restoring ecosystems and naturally sequestering carbon dioxide? Sounds like a plan. Kudos to Florida for getting the ball rolling on what will (hopefully) be an international trend in the coming years.

Via: ES&T: Can wetland restoration cool the planet?

More about wetlands
Destruction of Wetlands Could Unleash a "Carbon Bomb"
Florida to Buy Back Wetlands from U.S. Sugar
Wetland ‘Carbon Bomb’ Has One of Its Wires Cut: Democratic Republic of Congo Creates World’s Largest Protected Wetland

Restoration of saltwater marshes is a sure bet for sequestering carbon

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ACS Publications: Wetlands are champions at carbon storage, but they also release methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2. Scientists are boosting research efforts to determine whether the cooling power of carbon storage outstrips the global warming potential of methane in wetlands. They are finding that the greatest cooling occurs from saltwater marshes.

This summer, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that it was launching a $12.3 million project to capture carbon by growing tules (a species of sedge also known as bulrushes) and cattails in wetlands created on abandoned farmland on islands in California’s Sacramento−San Joaquin River Delta. Two months later, the carbon-storing capacity of wetlands headlined 2 days of workshops at the September 16 meeting of the Association of State Wetland Managers in Portland, Ore. The USGS project has captured eye-popping amounts of carbon—an average of 3000 grams of carbon per square meter per year (g-C/m2/yr) over the past 5 years. For comparison, reforested agricultural land, eligible for carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, socks away carbon at a rate much less than 100 g-C/m2/yr, says Gail Chmura, a biogeochemist at McGill University (Canada).

Wetlands capture carbon by incorporating CO2 from the air into new plant growth, explains Roger Fujii, a soil chemist with USGS. When the plant material dies, near-constant water cover keeps oxygen out of the rich mud, slowing decomposition that would otherwise emit CO2. Undisturbed wetlands are so effective at accreting carbon that their organic peat soils can be 60 feet deep and 7000−10,000 years old, he says. USGS is now expanding the delta project to see whether it can regain the land elevation lost since farmers drained the delta island marshes 100 years ago, causing the soil to decompose, emit CO2, and subside, Fujii says. A secondary goal is to find out whether the extraordinary carbon storage capacity of the tule and cattail “farms” could be sold as carbon credits on California’s upcoming CO2 cap-and-trade market, he says....

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta covers the right half of this image. Matthew Trump created this image, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wetland ‘Carbon Bomb’ Has One of Its Wires Cut: Democratic Republic of Congo Creates World’s Largest Protected Wetland

Reflection on Congo River photo
Congo River photo by LM TP via flickr.

Scientists warned the world last week that due to human interference in wetlands, a potential 'carbon bomb' is waiting to go off. As wetlands are increasingly drained due to urban sprawl or expansion of agricultural lands the 771 billion tons of carbon dioxide sequestered begins to be released. Now, thanks to action by the Democratic Republic of Congo, at least some of that sequestered carbon will remain out of the atmosphere.

Wetland Twice the Size of Belgium Protected
Announced yesterday, the Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe region of the DR Congo has become the world’s largest area of protected wetland. The 65,696 square kilometer region is located around Lake Tumba, the largest body of freshwater in Africa.

Speaking about the importance of the region, a local WWF representative said, “The Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe area contributes to the regulation of flooding are regional climate and ensures the quality of the water remains good enough for the millions of people who depend on it.”

The protected region has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the world, acts as buffer zone for flooding of the Congo River, as well being utilized for agricultural purposes.

The previous world record holder in the World’s Largest Protected Wetland category was Canada’s Queen Maud Gulf at 62,782 square kilometers.

via :: ENS

Destruction of Wetlands Could Unleash a “Carbon Bomb”
Kenyan Biofuel Expansion in Wetland Halted by Court, Temporarily
Florida to Buy Back Wetlands from U.S. Sugar

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Marine conservation introduced as a climate solution

Q: How was marine conservation was introduced as a climate solution?

A: Through a series of meetings I organized in Washington, DC, between April 9 and 16, 2008, with Greenpeace USA, Conservation International, The Ocean Foundation, White House CEQ, Heinz Center, and the World Bank.


Lutz, M. 2008a. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. Powerpoint presentation to Greenpeace USA. April 2008. Greenpeace USA, Washington D.C.
Lutz, M. 2008b. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. Powerpoint presentation to Conservation International. April 2008. Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia.
Lutz, M. 2008c. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. Powerpoint presentation to The Ocean Foundation. April 2008. The Ocean Foundation, Washington D.C.
Lutz, M. 2008d. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. Powerpoint presentation to White House Council on Environmental Quality CEQ. April 2008. The White House, Washington D.C.
Lutz, M. 2008e. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. Powerpoint presentation to Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. April 2008. Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. Washington D.C.
Lutz, M. 2008f. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. Powerpoint presentation to World Bank Global Program on Fisheries (PROFISH) Steering Committee. April 2008. The World Bank, Washington D.C.
Lutz, M. 2008g. Overfishing has reduced ocean CO2 sequestration. [Pamphlet]. Author’s personal collection (Lutz S), Arendal, Norway. 1 pp.

(This post has been backdated)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Reforesting mangroves + mitigating global warming

By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:22:00 03/05/2008

BOLINAO, Pangasinan – They only wanted to stop the destruction and degradation of marine resources – their main source of livelihood – in Bolinao, Pangasinan, but in their own little way, they are helping mitigate the serious problem of global warming.

Members of Kaisaka (Kaisahan ng mga Samahan Alay sa Kalikasan or Union of Organizations for the Environment), a federation of 10 village-based fishermen’s groups, have replanted 74 hectares of mangroves, established eight marine sanctuaries with a total area of 90 hectares, and helped implement livelihood projects and formulate the town’s coastal development plan.

“There was a rapid reduction in our income because the fish were fast disappearing. Illegal fishing was rampant and the corals were mostly dead,” Jesem Gabatin, Kaisaka board chair, said. “Old residents had told us that our town used to have thick mangrove forests, but these were depleted because the areas were turned into fishponds. The mangroves were cut and used as housing materials or firewood.”

Gabatin, one of the organizing pioneers, said all he knew then was that he wanted to help stop the environmental degradation. “It was only later that we found that we were helping abate global warming.”

Vested interest

Nileema Noble, resident representative of the United Nations Development Program in the Philippines, assured the fishermen that nothing was wrong with starting projects laden with “vested interests.”

“As human beings, we do things with our vested interest first,” Noble said when she visited Bolinao to monitor projects of the Sagip Lingayen Gulf Project (SLGP) of the Marine Environment Resources Foundation Inc.

In the island town of Anda, Mayor Nestor Pulido said people who had reforested the mangrove areas several years ago were already reaping the fruits of their labor.

When a storm surge hit the town in November last year, houses in the coastal villages were spared because of the presence of mangroves. People have also learned that mangrove areas are nurseries for fish.

Noble said she was “impressed” by the projects of the fishermen, whom she described as “not scientists but people with a lot of common sense.” She called on local officials to consider global warming in all their development projects.

Mangroves absorb carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere by industries and other human activities. “Through photosynthesis, mangroves absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in all their parts, just like any terrestrial (land) plants. But unlike terrestrial plants, mangroves store carbon in the sediments as well. Less Carbon means low global warming,” said Severino Salmo, a mangrove researcher pursuing a doctoral degree in marine science at the University of Queensland in Australia.

A hectare of mangrove forest can absorb around 20 tons of carbon each year, Salmo said.

But Noble said the fishermen’s efforts were not enough to counter global warming. “It is a problem that should be addressed on international, provincial, community, individual levels. All of us [should] contribute in reducing global warming,” she said.

Early days

Cesar Junsan, president of Kaisaka, said it was in 1995 when the Marine Environment Resources Foundation (MERF) and the local government started the community-based coastal resources management (CBCRM).

Seeds for marine development projects were sown, including the formation of five grassroots organizations and the establishment of a mangrove reforestation site in Barangay Pilar and a protected area in Balingasay.

In 1997, the CBCRM project was stopped. “We coordinated with the local government to survive. When we had meetings, we all contributed to buy our snacks,” Gabatin said.

The fishermen started planting mangroves in Pilar and Arnedo, two of the four original member-villages of Kaisaka. The others are Binabalian and Balingasay.

The next year, the MERF and the Haribon Foundation resumed implementation of the CBCRM project until 2002. The Asian Social Institute, provincial government, the Bolinao Marine Ecological Fund Foundation and Glaxo-Smith Klein, a pharmaceutical firm, contributed to the mangrove rehabilitation efforts.

Kaisaka became a partner of the SLGP for the implementation of the CBCRM programs and other activities in 2002. The original four groups increased to 10 when more villages joined the federation.


Challenges were plenty along the way, said Annabelle Echavez, Kaisaka secretary. She cited an incident when a resident asked then Bolinao Mayor Jesus Celeste to stop fishermen from planting mangroves in a proposed fishpond site.

“The mayor sent somebody to stop us. With muddied feet, we trooped to his office and explained what we were doing. In the end, he told us to go on planting,” Echavez said.

In 2004, Kaisaka obtained P2.5 million from the UNDP for the mangroves projects and sanctuaries.

The fishermen learned some lessons in planting mangroves, Gabatin said. For one, mortality rate was high because “we did not put nets around the plantation.” During high tide, plastic and dead sea grasses would wound around the plants, depriving these of sunlight. Barnacles suffocated the plants.

“We will replant the areas again,” Junsan said.

Kaisaka had already included nets in a proposal for a P1.5-million funding which the Philippine Tropical Conservation Foundation approved.

While most residents are already aware of environmental protection, others are stubborn, Gabatin said. Some people would gather shells in the mangrove sites, killing the plants, although these already abound with crustaceans and fish. Others, however, would drive them away, telling them to fish elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rivers are Carbon Processors, not Inert Pipelines

Rivers are Carbon Processors, not Inert Pipelines

02/12/2008 Waterlink International -

Microorganisms in rivers and streams play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle that has not previously been considered. Freshwater ecologist Dr. Tom Battin, of the University of Vienna, told a COST ESF Frontiers of Science conference in October that our understanding of how rivers and streams deal with organic carbon has changed radically. Microorganisms such as bacteria and single-celled algae in rivers and streams decompose organic matter as it flows downstream. They convert the carbon it contains into carbon dioxide, which is then released to the atmosphere.

Recent estimates by Battin's team and others conclude there is a net flux, or outgassing, of carbon dioxide from the world's rivers and streams to the atmosphere of at least two-thirds to three-quarters of a gigatonne (Gt) of carbon per year. This flux has not been taken into account in the models of the global carbon cycle used to predict climate change.

"Surface water drainage networks perfuse and integrate the landscape, across the whole planet," says Battin, "but they are missing from all global carbon cycling, even from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports. Rivers are just considered as inert pipelines, receiving organic carbon from Earth and transporting it to the ocean." This thinking, according to Battin, has changed radically in last few years.

He argues that the latest estimates of how much carbon is transferred to the atmosphere from rivers and streams are very conservative. "The actual outgassing of carbon dioxide is probably closer to 2 Gt of carbon per year," says Battin. "Our surface area estimates only consider larger streams and rivers, because it is very hard to estimate accurately the surface area of small streams. So small streams are excluded, although in terms of microbial activity, they are the most reactive in the network."

Two gigatonnes of carbon per year is close to half the estimated net primary production of the world's vegetation each year. Realising that this quantity of carbon may be delivered straight back to the atmosphere, rather than being taken to the ocean where some of it is removed by marine organisms and ends up in sediment, could have profound consequences for our understanding of the system.

In a disturbing development, Battin's team lab has recently found that engineered nanoparticles can significantly compromise the freshwater microbes involved in carbon cycling. "This finding is a real challenge to science," says Battin. "Engineered nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide are expected to increase in the environment, but it remains completely unknown how they might affect the functioning of ecosystems."

This research was presented at the "Complex Systems: Water and Life" Frontiers of Science conference, organized by European Science Foundation (ESF) and COST, 29-31 October, Taormina, Sicily.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Climate Change, Human Health & Natural Ocean Carbon Solutions

Climate change poses a great current and future threat to human health.

This threat could be reduced in coastal and island nations by gearing climate change funds with natural ocean carbon solutions, providing the financial resources to support sustainable living practices (including improved water quality, etc.).


Climate Change Poses A Huge Threat To Human Health

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2008) — Climate change will have a huge impact on human health and bold environmental policy decisions are needed now to protect the world's population, according to the author of an article published in the British Medical Journal.

The threat to human health is of a more fundamental kind than is the threat to the world's economic system, says Professor McMichael, a Professor of public health from the Australian National University. "Climate change is beginning to damage our natural life-support system," he says.

The risks to health are many, and include the impact of heat waves, floods and wildfires, changes in infectious disease patterns, the effect of worsening food yields and loss of livelihoods.

The World Health Organisation estimates that a quarter of the world's disease burden is due to the contamination of air, water, soil and food -- particularly from respiratory infections and diarrhoeal disease.

Climate change, says Professor McMichael, will make these and other diseases worse. While it is unlikely to cause entirely new diseases it will alter the incidence, range and seasonality of many existing health disorders. So, for example, by 2080 between 20 and 70 million more people could be living in malarial regions due to climate change.

The adverse health impacts will be much greater in low-income countries and vulnerable sub-populations than in richer nations.

Professor McMichael says: "Poverty cannot be eliminated while environmental degradation exacerbates malnutrition, disease and injury. Food supplies need continuing soil fertility, climatic stability, freshwater supplies and ecological support (such as pollination). Infectious diseases cannot be stabilised in circumstances of climatic instability, refugee flows and impoverishment."

The relationship between the environment and health is complex. For example, as India modernises it expects the health of its population to improve, yet industrialisation also means a rapidly increased level of coal-burning and greater global emissions. This in turn leads to climate change, the impact of which is felt most by vulnerable populations.

Professor McMichael concludes that the global changes we are seeing now are unprecedented in their scale, and healthcare systems should develop strategies to deal with the resulting growing burden of disease and injury. More bold and far-sighted policy decisions need to be taken at national and international level to arrest the process and health professionals "have both the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to resolving this momentous issue."

(This blog psot has been backdated)