Restored Wetlands Considered for Carbon Offsets

by | Oct 13, 2009

wetlandsAs landowners increasingly market forest lands for their carbon offsets, other sources are being considered. Enter wetland restoration projects, which are known for helping absorb carbon dioxide.

Some data suggests that wetlands could store six times more carbon per acre than forests, according to Ron Sass, a professor at Rice University, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Marsh plants help absorb CO2. As the plants die, they fall below the water level and are buried, trapping the carbon.

Wetlands help filter and cleanse water, and they provide habitat for a variety of fish, amphibeans and birdlife. They also provide buffers against hurricanes and flood surges.

On the other hand, freshwater marshes often release methane, a gas that is worse on the climate than carbon dioxide. Saltwater marshes emit negligable amounts of methane, the article notes.

The fact that wetlands are more affected by short-term climate change than forests also is an issue. Wetlands are more prone to drying up because of drought, or being completely flooded, due to changes in the climate.

Because of this, some are saying that wetland carbon offsets should be sold on a shorter-term basis of only 10 years or less, compared to the sometimes 30-year contracts that go with forest offsets.

Forest offsets are making headlines for the big names and mega-bucks associated with them.

For instance, on Oct. 12, Goldman Sachs marketed $12 million worth of carbon offsets to CE2 Carbon Capital in what Goldman Sachs is calling the largest publicly announced U.S. offset deal so far. About a third of those offsets were from forest lands.

Additionally, Staples, Home Depot and others are involved in the “Carbon Canopy,” which is geared toward preserving forests in the southern U.S. by encouraging landowners to change management practices and explore using forests as carbon sinks that can be marketed as carbon offsets.

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