Human-induced climate change is now an accepted phenomenon. The impact of releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide is resulting in an increase in both temperature and the amount of energy in our atmosphere, leading to glacier melt, sea level rise, drought and extreme weather events.Wetlands can play an important role in climate change. Firstly, they allow us to adapt better to drought and extreme weather events. Wetlands such as tidal mudflats and salt marsh can act to absorb the energy of sea surges and high tides, acting as a buffer to agricultural and residential areas. Associated riverine wetlands also allow water to be soaked up in rural or agricultural areas, sparing human settlements downstream.
Secondly, wetlands are a great store for carbon, particularly peatlands, where biomass does not degrade due to waterlogged conditions. Instead, it is stored. If drained, these wetlands release their biomass as it oxidises, adding to the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
Finally, wetlands are impacted on by climate change. Drought, storms and rising sea level can all damage wetlands. We need to be making sure our wetlands are robust enough to deal with this.
For more information on climate change facts, a useful site is the IPCC, which gives background information on the causes and predictions for climate change, as well as reports on the impact on water. Go to WWF’s guide on natural flood management.
For a climate change-based game aimed at under 10 year-olds, try the STEP game from WWF Hong Kong. Friends of the Earth are also running a great climate change campaign, and provide some useful facts and figures. The French site,manicore, also give resources in English – useful background on carbon cycle and greenhouse effect.
For information on climate change and water resources, go to IUCN’s web pages. Try Wetlands International for some information on biofuels.
Recent report from FIELD shows the importance of wetlands and forests in climate change.