Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scientists to discuss climate risk posed by wetlands destruction

Agence France-Presse: Moves around the world to drain marshes and other wetlands to make space for farming could be hastening climate change, scientists gathering in Brazil from Monday will be hearing. Around 700 researchers from around the world are to descend on the central western town of Cuiaba [in Brazil] for a four-day conference to discuss ways to preserve wetlands, the UN University, a grouping of scholars, said in a statement.

They are concerned that evaporation from warmer global temperatures and man's destruction of wetlands are releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, which could be increasing greenhouse gases.

Wetlands such as marshes, swamps, mangroves, peat bogs and river floodplains cover six percent of the Earth's land surface, and store up to 20 percent of terrestrial carbon in the form of slowly decaying organic matter, the statement said. They are estimated to contain 771 billion tons of greenhouses gases -- carbon dioxide and methane -- an amount comparable to the carbon content already in the atmosphere.

According to the UN University, 60 percent of wetlands around the world have been destroyed in the past century, mainly to provide drainage for farming. "Too often in the past, people have unwittingly considered wetlands to be problems in need of a solution. Yet wetlands are essential to the planet's health," said UN Under Secretary-General Konrad Osterwalder, who is also rector of the UN University….

Wetlands alongside the Morava River near Hohenau an der March, Lower Austria. Photo by "Doronenko, "Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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