Navigation Links
Flooding might help lower gas emission from wetlands

COLUMBUS, Ohio River floods and storms that send water surging through swamps and marshes near rivers and coastal areas might cut in half the average greenhouse gas emissions from those affected wetlands, according to recent research at Ohio State University.

A study suggests that pulses of water through wetlands result in lower average emissions of greenhouse gases over the course of the year compared to the emissions from wetlands that receive a steady flow of water.

The study compared the emission of methane from wetlands under two different conditions, one with a pulsing hydrology system designed to resemble river flooding and one with a steady, low flow of water. The research showed that in areas of deeper water within the wetlands, methane gas fluxes were about twice as high in steady-flow systems than they were in pulsing systems. Methane emissions from edge zones, which are sometimes dry, were less affected by the different types of conditions.

Methane is the major component of natural gas and is a greenhouse gas associated with global warming. While the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that human activities are responsible for about 60 percent of methane emissions worldwide, wetlands are among the natural sources. Bacteria that produce methane during the decay of organic material cause wetlands to release the gas into the atmosphere.

The study by Ohio State University scientists is part of ongoing research comparing pulsing vs. steady-flow conditions in two experimental wetlands on the Columbus campus.

"Pulsing refers to a number of different conditions in wetlands river pulses that happen on a seasonal basis, two-per-day coastal tides, and the rare but huge ones, like hurricanes or tsunamis," said William Mitsch, the study's senior author and director of the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at Ohio State.

"Our point is that the healthiest systems and the ones with the lowest emissions of greenhouse gases are those that have these pulses and that are able to adapt to the pulses."

The research was published in a recent issue of the journal Wetlands.

Often called the "kidneys" of the environment, wetlands act as buffer zones between land and waterways. They also act as sinks wetlands filter out chemicals in water that runs off from farm fields, roads, parking lots and other surfaces, and hold on to them for years.

The study examined methane fluxes over a two-year period during which researchers created two different kinds of conditions in two 2.5-acre experimental wetlands. In 2004, scientists used pumps to deliver monthly pulses to create conditions in the wetlands resembling natural marshes flooded with river water. In 2005, researchers pumped approximately the same amount of water but maintained a constant flow of water through the wetlands to mimic less dynamic hydrologic conditions. In addition to methane emissions, the study also investigated other processes such as denitrification, sedimentation, and aquatic productivity.

The pulsing hydrology experiment was maintained and methane levels were measured approximately twice monthly over the two study years by Mitsch, also an environment and natural resources professor at the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, and study co-author Anne Altor, a former Ohio State graduate student who is now a consultant in Indianapolis. During both years, more methane was emitted during the summer than during other seasons in all portions of the wetlands, with emissions about four times higher during summer in the edge zones. Consistently wet areas released more gases in the spring than did edge zones under both conditions.

Methane is composed of carbon and hydrogen, and its emissions are expressed in terms of the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. The emissions were at their highest during the summer of the steady-flow year, when the amount of methane released from the deepest part of the wetlands averaged 18.5 milligrams of carbon per square meter of wetland surface per hour. With these wetlands covering about 5 acres, the emissions amounted to an estimated 20 pounds of carbon per day. That level was twice as high as the summertime methane emissions measured from the deepest area of the wetlands during the year of pulsing conditions.

The average levels of methane emissions in the deepest water of the wetlands over the course of the study were 6 pounds of carbon per day in the pulsing year and almost 12 pounds of carbon per day during the steady-flow year.

The researchers suggested that slightly warmer soil temperatures and less fluctuation in water levels during the steady-flow year created conditions that promoted the production of methane.

A simultaneous study of carbon collection in the wetlands showed that the different water conditions had no significant effect on how much carbon was stored by the wetlands. Many experts suggest that the benefits of wetlands' carbon storage capacity offset any damage resulting from their methane emissions.

Mitsch noted that pulses from storms not only help dissipate one negative effect of wetlands, but also serve as a reminder of how wetlands function to absorb the surge.

"If we didn't have salt marshes and mangroves in subtropical and tropical coastal areas of the United States, it's safe to say these current storms would have even more damaging effects," he said.

"When you lose wetlands, you've lost a place for floodwater to go," Mitsch noted. "Mother Nature is better at withstanding these pulses than we are. Whether it's a flooding river or a hurricane, no matter what those pulses are, if there's a natural ecosystem to absorb them, then we as humans would be safer."


Contact: William Mitsch
Ohio State University

Related biology news :

1. Ultra-low-dose aspirin might decrease bleeding severity in portal hypertension
2. New magnetic separation technique might detect multiple pathogens at once
3. Curry-derived molecules might be too spicy for colorectal cancers
4. Parasites might spur evolution of strange amphibian breeding habits
5. Leading cause of death in preemies might be controlled by resetting a molecular switch
6. Some biofuels might do more harm than good to the environment, study finds
7. Get smart about what you eat and you might actually improve your intelligence
8. Great whites mighty bite revealed
9. Curbing coal emissions alone might avert climate danger, say researchers
10. Embryonic stem cells might help reduce transplantation rejection
11. Student study bolsters case for adding a rare sunflower to the endangered species list
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... YORK , Oct. 29, 2015 ... technology, announced a partnership with 2XU, a global ... to deliver a smart hat with advanced bio-sensing ... and other athletes to monitor key biometrics to ... the strategic partnership, the two companies will bring together ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), the ... has adopted the Synaptics ® ClearPad ® ... its newest flagship smartphones, the Nexus 5X by LG ... --> --> Synaptics works closely ... collaboration in the joint development of next generation technologies. ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... -- Delta ID Inc., a company focused on bringing secure ... announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris recognition feature ... NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan . ... include iris recognition technology, after a very successful introduction ... 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this capability. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD ) today ... following conference, and invited investors to participate via webcast. ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... maintain healthy metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also ... Health (NIH), researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research services headquartered in ... has set a new quarterly earnings record in Q3 of 2015.  ... Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015.   ... the establishment of an Asia-Pacific office to ... and Mexico , with the establishment ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its Executive Council, has ... Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV racing has exploded ... of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the community because of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: