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Why wetlands are important to mitigate climate change

alison-andrew-mcbride-landscape-species-p8080665Why wetlands are important to mitigate climate change

By Iain Sime, Scottish Natural Heritage

As a result of climate change we can expect to see changes in our climate that are greater than anything we have previously experienced. Healthy wetlands offer us a number of opportunities to help adapt and manage some of these future changes.

Wetlands around the shores or our seas, rivers and lakes provide important areas for flood waters to inundate. This capacity to store and slow the flow of water during floods can help to steady flow rates, reduce flood peaks and lower the flood risks to towns and other important infrastructure.

The flooded nature of our wetlands also allows many of them to accumulate peat, a process that has been taking place over thousands of years. These peat reserves within our wetlands are the largest store of carbon in Europe. Wetlands that have been damaged by drainage, overgrazing and other pressures emit carbon and thereby contribute to climate change. However, work to restore and properly manage wetlands not only stops this loss of carbon, it also allows wetlands to capture and store carbon.

Well-managed wetlands can therefore play an important role in helping society adapt to climate change, with wetland management being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Photo: Freshwater and wetland plant species in Scotland © Andrew McBride, SNH