A new Danish research center will map the world’s wetlands

A new Danish research center will map the world’s wetlands

Peat bogs store twice as much carbon dioxide as all the world’s forests combined. A new research center at the University of Copenhagen will map wetlands on Earth and provide important information about greenhouse gas budgets in these areas. The World Wetlands Center will teach us how to contain and preserve carbon from plants and trees in marshes and other wetlands – as well as the ancient bog bodies there.

He is world famous because he is much younger than his actual age. A few thousand years younger, more or less. In fact, those who encountered the Tollund Man while digging for peat in the Bjældskovdal bog in 1950 suspected him of being the victim of a recent murder.

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It was because of the man of Tollund – like other people of his name Swamp bodies -It is found in wetlands. His body was submerged in the nutrient-poor swamp, and was soon immersed in an environment devoid of oxygen, the presence of which is a prerequisite for the decomposition of anything organic, including corpses.

This is exactly what makes wetlands one of the most powerful natural tools we can use to prevent climate change. It is a fact that has gradually come to the attention of researchers and policymakers in recent years – and will be celebrated today, 2 February, on World Wetlands Day, along with the important role that wetlands play in relation to nature conservation and biodiversity.

Over the next six years, recently opened World Wetlands Centre The Department of Earth Sciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen will investigate and map the potential of wetlands and their local changes with the help of a DKK 60 million grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The studies will be conducted in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science (UCPH), GEUS and DHI.

“Although local variations need to be studied, we already know that conserving natural wetlands in general provides a significant net gain to the greenhouse gas budget. Under the right conditions, they are able to absorb carbon dioxide and store it under shields of water,” Associate Professor Prof. Jay Sugargers from the Department of Earth Sciences and Natural Resource Management, who heads the research team, says: “We prevent their decomposition indefinitely – just like Homo Tollund and Homo Graupali. If they had been buried in oxygen-rich sites, we would never have known about them.” New Center.

A unique company2 Accommodating, with one noteworthy exception

Just as in a forest, wetland trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide2 From the air. But as plants on the forest floor decompose, plants that fall into wetlands become submerged.

“After several years, forests end up in a state of equilibrium due to decomposition, where carbon dioxide absorption and emissions reach zero. But wetlands do not. Due to the ability of water to block oxygen from the atmosphere, these areas are unique in their ability “To continue pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” Jay Sugars explains.

This also means that wetlands store an amount of carbon that accumulates for many years. For example, while peat bogs make up only about 3% of Earth’s land area, they store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests combined.

But there is a negative element in the balance that requires further examination: methane and nitrous oxide.

“Globally, we know that these areas, as a whole, are the most effective way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and retain it naturally. However, we also find local wetlands where the greenhouse gas budget is negative. This is partly because because “Due to the lack of oxygen, wetlands have a negative byproduct in the form of methane production. Although produced in small quantities, methane is a potent greenhouse gas and it is important to study this mechanism in depth.”

In nitrogen-rich areas, oxygen-poor conditions can also contribute to the production of nitrous oxide – another important greenhouse gas. This can occur in fertilized rice fields or wetlands that receive nitrogen from nearby farms.

As such, one of the centre’s main tasks will be to gather local knowledge about wetlands around the world.

Experiments must find local differences and solutions

Wetlands are far from uniform. Because of their diversity, Jay Sugars explains, it is necessary for the World Wetlands Center to develop models to study this phenomenon. These models must be able to account for local differences – such as the role of water levels in the tropics versus the tundra and on the coast or inland – as well as be able to detect commonalities across differences.

“Once the models can discriminate properly, we hope it will be possible to use them to map the global extent of wetlands and give us a better idea of ​​what exactly these areas mean for our planet’s climate with the help of satellite images. The decisions offer opportunities that did not exist before,” says Jay Schorgers. five years”.

But to make this possible, studying wetlands from above is not enough – scientists must keep their feet on the ground. Because in many places, their understanding of wetlands is very limited. This is especially true for wetlands that are not well studied outside of Europe and North America.

As such, the Center will conduct case studies with actual experiments in wetlands, initially in Vietnam, Tanzania and Norway.

An important aspect of the center’s agenda is for the results not to end up on a university shelf, but rather to be useful and quickly passed on to decision-makers. This is also one of the reasons why the project focuses on case study experiences.

“Field studies will allow us to have experimental results ready for practical application. Therefore, we will also make sure that local considerations are incorporated into the design, so that agencies can actually use our discoveries and they do not end up as theoretical considerations.” Exercises,” concludes the researcher.

This article has been republished from the following articles. Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For more information, please contact the aforementioned source.

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