Monday, March 23, 2009

Scientists find climate change to have paradoxical effects in coastal wetlands

EurekAlert: Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is largely responsible for recent global warming and the rise in sea levels. However, a team of scientists, including two Smithsonian ecologists, have found that this same increase in CO2 may ironically counterbalance some of its negative effects on one of the planet's most valuable ecosystems—wetlands. The team's findings are being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 23.

…. Coastal wetlands must build upward through the accumulation of mineral and organic matter to maintain a constant elevation relative to water levels; otherwise, they will drown and disappear. Climate change, however, is causing acceleration in the rise of sea level, which would seemingly put wetlands at risk of excessive flooding. "Our findings show that elevated CO2 stimulates plant productivity, particularly below ground, thereby boosting marsh surface elevation," said Adam Langley, the paper's lead author. Patrick Megonigal, the paper's corresponding author, added "We found that by stimulating root growth, thus raising a marsh's soil elevation, elevated CO2 may also increase the capacity for coastal wetlands to tolerate relative rises in sea level." Both scientists are ecologists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md.

These findings bear particular importance given the threat of accelerating sea-level rise to coastal wetlands worldwide. Some evidence suggests that only a two-millimeter increase in the rate of sea-level rise will threaten and possibly eliminate large portions of mid-Atlantic marshes. And the loss of these wetlands threatens critical services that the ecosystems provide, such as supporting commercially important fisheries, providing wildlife habitat, improving water quality and buffering human populations from oceanic forces.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

1 comment:

Nature Concern said...

We've got to be united to save earth! Earth Hour is practised at large scale in all developed and developing countries but there has been more publicity and awareness this year, as well as participation from large corporations like http://www.commit21.com/ which is a good sign - that there is still hope and that people still care!

Let's all do this, no matter where you are! Saturday, 28 March 2009. Lights off from 8.30pm to 9.30pm!

Nature Concern