Restoring tides to reduce methane emissions in impounded wetlands: A new and potent Blue Carbon climate change intervention
Coastal wetlands are sites of rapid carbon (C) sequestration and contain large soil C stocks. Thus, there is increasing interest in those ecosystems as sites for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission offset projects (sometimes referred to as “Blue Carbon”), through preservation of existing C stocks or creation of new wetlands to increase future sequestration. Here we show that in the globally-widespread occurrence of diked, impounded, drained and tidally-restricted salt marshes, substantial methane (CH4) and CO2 emission reductions can be achieved through restoration of disconnected saline tidal flows. Modeled climatic forcing indicates that tidal restoration to reduce emissions has a much greater impact per unit area than wetland creation or conservation to enhance sequestration. Given that GHG emissions in tidally-restricted, degraded wetlands are caused by human activity, they are anthropogenic emissions, and reducing them will have an effect on climate that is equivalent to reduced emission of an equal quantity of fossil fuel GHG. Thus, as a landuse-based climate change intervention, reducing CH4 emissions is an entirely distinct concept from biological C sequestration projects to enhance C storage in forest or wetland biomass or soil, and will not suffer from the non-permanence risk that stored C will be returned to the atmosphere.