A pathway to achieving large scale wetland restoration

Reading the 2022 report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) it becomes increasingly clear: the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius cannot be achieved by only reducing carbon levels. Other mitigation methods such as carbon capture and storage are necessary to realistically reach our climate change goals. [1]

Although much of the recent attention has been focused on novel carbon capture technology, there are also natural solutions. Wetlands for example are carbon sinks; they capture, store, and sequester carbon. Peatlands alone can store twice as much carbon as all global forest biomass. When intact, these landscapes help to regulate the atmospheric concentrations of other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

The importance of wet- and peatlands is at the heart of the EU-funded WET HORIZONS project. To achieve its large-scale restoration goals, WET HORIZONS plans to fill knowledge gaps about wetlands and develop a series of workable tools and guidelines to inform policy and decision makers about the best possible restoration measures for different regions. A key factor of the project is a collaborative and holistic approach that brings together wet and peatland experts, greenhouse gas researchers, biomodelers, policy analysts, and communicators. The experts and researchers will work together to gather data for biomodelers while policy analysts will consider the socio-economic aspects of restoration and regulations about this topic. The models and the data will then be used to create tools like a platform and an app to help policy makers make decisions.

Less than 20% of Europe’s wetlands are in good ecological condition. The drainage, destruction, and degradation of peatlands has resulted in the release of its stored carbon. “With wetlands making up 10% of Europe’s area, the restoration of wet and peatlands aimed at the recovery of ecosystem functions and biodiversity will definitely benefit climate change mitigation”, says project coordinator Shubiao Wu of Aarhus University in Denmark.

Without mitigation actions, the EU will continue to release 220 Megatonnes CO2 equivalent, making it the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas from drained peatlands. Continued loss of wetland areas will also significantly affect the unique biodiversity found in these environments while potentially increasing methane release by up to 80% by 2100.

WET HORIZONS kicked off on 21 September with a consortium meeting in Aarhus and demonstration site fieldtrip in Lille Vildmose, Denmark. The project will last for 48 months and features 16 partners from eight countries: Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, UK, France, Finland, Poland, and Kenya. During this time data will be collected from over 25 demo sites across Europe, including citizen science activities at two demo sites. 

[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/2022/04/04/ipcc-ar6-wgiii-pressrelease/