Wetland soils are among the largest carbon stores in the world. However, 50% of them have disappeared in the world in the last century.
I am David Moreno Mateos, a restoration ecologist at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University, and I am investigating ways to restore wetlands so that they will be able to store carbon long term at the same rates as undisturbed ones.
I am planning to collect around 200 samples of soils from created and well preserved wetlands at the Stanford’s field station. Later, I will use the most sophisticated and accurate techniques available (14-Carbon dating) to find out when carbon left the atmosphere to enter the soil and in what form. We need to know if it is in a form that easily goes back to the atmosphere, or rather a form that will remain in the soil for thousands of years?
Wetlands (including ponds, floodplains, peatlands, marshes, and mangroves) provide more benefits to humans than most terrestrial ecosystems. Some of these benefits are, flood control, erosion control, fisheries, wildlife, water purification, nitrogen fixation, carbon storage, among many others.
In the last 50 years, many degraded wetlands have been restored, but it is still unclear if they accumulate carbon as they did before degradation. Recently, it has been found that 25 years after restoration the carbon accumulated in soils of restored wetlands was still 50% less than the carbon it was there before the wetland was degraded (see additional links below). Apparently, it is going to take centuries to recover the carbon released to the atmosphere back to the soil.
Why this matters
Currently in the US, there are several regulations that allow wetland degradation if they are replaced by other restored or created wetlands in alternative locations (clean water act -mitigation banks-, or markets for ecosystem services). If we use this to justify further wetland degradation we are likely accelerating the global loss of biodiversity and services that wetlands provide to humans and to the world. Moreover, hundreds of restoration projects are currently carried out all over the world, with special intensity in the US, to restore impaired wetlands, or create new ones as part of an offset scheme, without a clear understanding of what is needed to recover biodiverse and functionally healthy wetlands.
Specifically, if we keep destroying natural wetlands and creating new ones that do not store carbon like natural ones do, we are releasing more carbon to the atmosphere that likely will take centuries to be re-stored. This is why it is essential to understand why carbon takes so long to accumulate in wetland soils. This knowledge will help us understand what we can do to improve this crucial service to humans in all the current projects that aim to restore or create wetlands all over the world.
What your money can do
With your support we may able to understand the processes that are preventing carbon to go back to the soil in restored wetlands. Once we understand these processes better, we should be able to finds ways to promote them, ways that are easily usable in actual wetland restoration and creation projects.
Accurate analysis of carbon in soil samples to date them and obtain different forms of carbon from them needs lots of support, and it is extremely expensive (around $250 per sample, not including labor!) With the first $10,000 raised, we will be able to obtain a first approach to respond to our questions and verify we are in the right path. But we will need up to $40,000 to have a comprehensive perspective on carbon dynamics in soils of restored wetlands and be able to provide reliable guidelines to restoration practitioners, ecological engineers, and politicians concerned with wetlands.
A realistic way to mitigate and offset anthropogenic global warming using restored wetlands.
David Moreno Mateos is originally from Spain and moved with his family to the US because of his passion for basic ecology and how to use it to compensate for human impacts, especially in wetlands. He spent three years as a postdoc at UC Berkeley with Dr. Mary Power, one of the most well-known food-web ecologists in the world. Currently, he is the 2nd Jasper Ridge Restoration Fellow at Stanford University’s field station where he to work and publish results of his research so as to make it available and beneficial for the rest of the world.
David’s current research is aimed at increasing our understanding of what ecological processes facilitate or impede ecosystem recovery after human intervention, and how landscape configuration and complexity affect ecosystem recovery.
Have a look at some of our previous results!!
These are comments in the media:
And these are our previous results (it is open access):
Hi everyone, thanks a lot for supporting my project!!!
I hope to get more support before the deadline, but there lots of competitivity and little resources.
Please feel free to comment withyour freinds and colleagues about the incredibel interest and benefit of this project.
With my best wishes,