Flooding might cut down wetlands emission by half

September 24th, 2008 - 4:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 24 (IANS) Floods that send water gushing through swamps and marshes near rivers and coastal areas might cut in half greenhouse emissions from these wetlands.The Ohio State University (OSU) study compared methane emission from wetlands under two different conditions, one with a pulsing hydrology system designed to resemble river flooding and one with a steady, low flow of water.

“Pulsing refers to a number of different conditions in wetlands - river pulses that happen on a seasonal basis, two-per-day coastal tides, and the rare but huge ones, like hurricanes or tsunamis,” said William Mitsch, the study’s senior co-author and director of Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at OSU.

“Our point is that the healthiest systems and the ones with the lowest emissions of greenhouse gases are those that have these pulses and that are able to adapt to the pulses.”

The research showed that in areas of deeper water within the wetlands, methane gas fluxes were about twice as high in steady-flow systems than they were in pulsing systems. Methane emissions from edge zones, which are sometimes dry, were less affected by the different types of conditions, reports Eurekalert.

Methane is the major component of natural gas and is a greenhouse gas associated with global warming. Human activities are estimated to be responsible for about 60 percent of methane emissions worldwide, wetlands are among the natural sources.

Bacteria that produce methane during the decay of organic material cause wetlands to release the gas into the atmosphere.

The research was published in a recent issue of Wetlands.

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