Man’s need for more and more land for agricultural cultivation and residential settlements is a major cause behind the destruction of vast areas of wetlands around the world. The environmental pollution caused by human activities is one of the culprits. In addition, pumping out groundwater for agricultural and industrial purposes has led to a drastic lowering of the level of under ground water table. Around 60 percent of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the past century alone, as lands were cleared to make way for urban expansion and large volumes of water was drained for cultivation.
A wide range of various ecosystems such as river deltas, river flood plains, peat bogs, mangroves, marshes, tundra, lagoons, and swamps are vital to ecological functions that keep the world going.
The planet’s wetlands comprises of 6 percent of the land surface area, and it may sound hard to believe, these lands contain about 20 percent of the earth’s carbon supply and the same amount of carbon that is present in the atmosphere – which totals to a whopping 771 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or one fifth of all the carbon on earth.
About a quarter of the world’s food is produced on these wetlands, they also help purify water and recharge aquifers, while acting as buffers against violent storms on and near the coastal areas.
If all these wetlands release the carbon they hold, it would greatly influence the climate-warming greenhouse effect, said Paulo Teixeira, coordinator of Brazil’s Pantanal Regional Environment Program. Teixeira said,
We could call it the carbon bomb. It’s a very tricky situation.
At the International Wetlands Conference (INTECOL) at the edge of Brazil’s vast Pantanal wetland some 700 scientists from 28 nations are meeting this week to find out ways to protect the endangered wetlands.
As the planet warms up, most of the water from wetlands will be lost to evaporation, and rising sea levels could completely inundate the low lying wetlands or change the salinity levels in them.
Eugene Turner of Louisiana State University, a participant in the conference, said,
The carbon released into the atmosphere by the melting Arctic permafrost cannot be stopped in the next 20 years. But, wetlands in the areas closer to the equator can be restored.
The permanently frozen soil of the northern wetlands locks up billions of tons of carbon, and these are at risk from climate change since warming is expected to be more extreme at high latitudes.
There is an urgent need for wetland rehabilitation, which alone could reduce the release of unacceptably large quantities of carbon dioxide and save the earth from the impending explosion of the formidable carbon bomb.
Via: Tree Hugger