A highlight from Climate Change Effects Coastal Wetlands' Carbon Absorption


Scientists are taking a second look at the role that wetlands playing climate change coastal wetlands absorb a lot of carbon which is good but new research in delaware. Release a lot of carbon. They might release even more with a warming climate. So schmidt of delaware public media. Has this encore presentation. It's a cloudy. Breezy day at the tidal wetland near dover and researchers from the university of delaware gather on a boardwalk to look at a computer screen a line graph squiggle up and down showing data in real time. And then you can see. It's fairly steady. There's some fluctuation but computers hooked up to a tower that looms above the winding creeks and tall grasses still brown from the winter ecologist road rigo. Vargas is the lead researcher. A mature tower that measures the breathing of the story that breathing shows how greenhouse gases move in and out of the marsh during different growth phases of the marsh grass overall. The researchers expected to find that over three years. The marsh was sequestering carbon but they got a surprise it was the opposite and that raises a lot of questions. I believe we are challenging a paradigm. Wait a minute what we expect. That is not as consistent as we thought. The key appeared to be in the wintertime. When vargas his team found the balanced flipped the marsh plants which carbon dioxide out of the air were dormant but microbes which eat buried plant matter and then releases. co two and methane another greenhouse gas. They kept on munching. Vargas says some researchers tend to do field work only during the warmer months and now it seems like that's not the full picture. Are we losing carbon from this eco-systems or not dyson open question. Are these going to continue. Sequestering carbon the amount of carbon the marsh released was small. And it's too soon to say what's behind vargas says results but one possible factor is the warming climate. I think there are some places where coastal salt marshes will not be a sink or a sink now but not. Maybe in thirty or fifty years from now tom. O'halloran of clemson university studies wetlands to. He says higher temperatures are expected to make both the wetland microbes that emit carbon and the plants that absorb more active. That could throw things off then. There's the threat of rising waters coastal marshes. So she's like. This are experiencing different levels of sea level rise all around the world depending on the region but all marcia is half to maintain their elevation relative to local sea level rise or they will essentially drown. O'halloran is doing work at a salt. Marsh in south carolina right around his monitoring equipment. The creeks growing wider and the marsh grasses thinning. He thinks he'll probably find the area sequestering less carbon results but so far the delaware marsh seems to be keeping up with the rising tides by building up sediment rodriguez vargas and his team planned to keep studying the marsh to figure out. Why it's been emitting more carbon than they expected this could be important for also forecasting. What will happen about intricacy. Simpson the future or the surprising emissions. Temporary or assign that these crucial ecosystems could switch from helping offset climate change to making it worse for npr news. I'm sophie schmidt in dover.

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