New Study Examines Role of Coastal Wetlands In Addressing Climate Change

USGS Scientist samples water in Mashpee wetlands. Photographic credit: Sandra Brosnahan, USGS

WELLFLEET – A recently study led by the U.S. Geological Survey has provided valuable insights regarding the role of coastal wetlands in mitigating climate change.

The study examined the impact of infrastructure such as dams, dikes and roadways on coastal wetlands by examining impacted and unaffected areas in Herring River in Wellfleet and Sage Lot Pond in Mashpee and found that human development was connected to higher methane levels and lower salinity in coastal environments.

The findings indicate that methane emissions are significantly lower in wetlands with higher salinity and those unaffected by coastal hydrology management.

Scientists involved with the project suggested that restoring higher salinity levels in affected wetlands could reduce the amount of methane released, with positive effects on reducing greenhouse gasses and mitigating climate change.

Due to regular inundation with sulfate-rich seawater, coastal wetlands are effective carbon stores, as the lengthy period of time it takes for plants to decompose within them greatly reduces the rate at which carbon dioxide and methane are released into the atmosphere.

Human infrastructure, which impacts approximately 25% of all coastal tidal wetlands, can reduce the flow of saltwater and create an imbalance of fresh water.

Though it is unclear how much wetlands can be restored to natural conditions, scientists with the study hope that it can aid and inform coastal tidal restorations and coastal development decisions as scientists nationwide pursue comprehensive strategies to address climate change.

The study, conducted with the Marine Biological Laboratory and Chinese Academy of Sciences, was published in a recent edition of Coastal Change Biology.

To read the study, click here.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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