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Why Midwestern wetlands are especially important for combating climate change

Map of wetlands
A. M. Nahlik and M. S. Fennessy/Nature Communications
Sites (black points) were sampled as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) and were analyzed by five regions.";

We know a lot about how important wetlands are for filtering water, and controlling floods. A new study documents another big benefit wetlands give us: storing carbon.

Siobhan Fennessy is a biology professor at Kenyon College in Ohio. She says wetlands act like a buffer for climate change.

“Wetlands are really seen now as an ecosystem that can offer us resilience in the face of a changing climate because of their ability to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," she says.

In her study, Fennessy found wetlands in our region are especially good at storing carbon.

“The eastern mountains and upper Midwest, including where you are, just have a high, high concentration of carbon, so far more than any other region out there," she says. "And it’s because of the colder climate and the fact that so much of these systems have peat, which is a 100% organic material, and that adds up to a lot of carbon per area that they can hold.”

Fennessy says that’s important to keep in mind, because we’ve lost more than half of the wetlands in the U.S. through development.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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