Check out our recent paper on restoring wetland carbon sequestration when water is conserved!!!
Climate change and water pollution. What causes them? At a fundamental level, these and other undesirable changes to our environment result from the mobilization of particular chemical elements. Accelerated delivery of carbon to the atmosphere, for instance, is the direct cause of climate change. Nature’s ecosystems do have one powerful way to slow down the mobilization and cycling of many elements, and that is to store them in soil organic matter, which is the partially decayed remains of plants, microorganisms, and organic materials exuded by all life forms.
Wetlands are quite impressive reservoirs for soil organic matter and the chemical elements that it stores. Because wetland soil is flooded for long periods of time, organic matter decomposes slowly, and wetlands thus have the capacity to sequester large quantities of carbon and other elements. Unfortunately, voracious water consumption by humans has lowered water tables and dried out wetlands in many areas, resulting in a loss of soil organic matter, and the release of carbon and other polluting elements to the atmosphere, rivers, and seas.
So what might happen if humans appropriated less water. Could wetland soil carbon recover as well? This is a difficult question to answer because there are many steps—each rife with uncertainty—between conserving water and restoring carbon cycles. In this recent paper, the Lewis Lab used an approach called error propagation to investigate whether one could detect changes in wetland soil carbon storage, amid all the noise and uncertainty, when human reliance on a groundwater aquifer was reduced. It appears that increased amounts of carbon in wetland soils may be detectable in the initial stages of water conservation, but that severe cutbacks in aquifer use to the point of human privation may be marginally less helpful for wetland soils.