Carbon dynamics in restored freshwater wetlands: Implications for climate mitigation

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Fiona M. Ellsworth, M. Siobhan Fennessy, Grace Gavazzi

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Wetlands play particularly important roles in the global carbon cycle through their fluxes of CO2 and CH4, two major greenhouse gases. Expanding anthropogenic influences have accelerated the degradation of wetlands, creating demand for restoration. Today, relatively young restored systems can make up a significant portion of wetland landscapes, thus understanding how restored systems function and differ from natural systems is increasingly important. Here, we explore carbon fluxes in restored freshwater wetlands and compare those to natural systems of varying ecological condition. We used non-steady state methane chambers to sample greenhouse gas fluxes from restored and natural wetlands in central Ohio, and quantified carbon sequestration using radiometric (137-Cs, 210-Pb) dating. Wetland condition was verified using the Floristic Quality Assessment Index; high condition wetlands had mean FQAI values of 21.2, compared to 12.0 at low condition sites and 12.5 at restored sites. High condition natural sites had the highest methane emission rates; 13.4 mg/m2hr versus 5.9 mg/m2hr in restored and 2.7 mg/m2hr in low condition sites. Conversely, we found that low condition wetlands had higher soil carbon sequestration rates; 85 gC/m2yr compared to 8 and 42 gC/m2yr in higher condition and restored sites, respectively. Our results suggest restored wetland carbon flux rates are intermediate between high and low condition natural sites, and indicate that restored systems may not contribute disproportionately to wetland greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, our findings support restoration initiatives and emphasize wetland ecosystems’ potential for climate mitigation.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program