November 7 is a day at the COP26 climate conference dedicated to the importance of nature and sustainable land use. On this occasion, we will talk about such beautiful but underestimated ecosystems as swamps.
Swamps are associated with something dirty and unpleasant. But here are five facts from a less scary reality that will help you fall in love with wetlands:
- they do a lot of helpful work: contain floods, feed small rivers in the dry season, humidify the air in the heat and purify water as a filter;
- they are inhabited not only by evil spirits. It is one of the most prosperous centers of biodiversity.
- they accumulate and retain carbon, which would otherwise be in the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change. Wetlands store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests!
- they help to travel in time. Swamps preserve vegetation, and in the depths, you can find the seeds of plants that existed there 200 years ago.
- and they are stunning!
Wetlands are the most efficient and vulnerable ecosystems in the world.
Swamps and floodplains perform the functions of “kidneys” on Earth. Damage to the wetland system will deprive it of its ability to fulfill its role as a treatment system. If a person’s kidneys stop working, the person dies. The same with wetlands. If they disappear, the Earth will perish.
Peat, like a sponge, absorbs up to 90% of its volume and consists of more than half of organic carbon. Even though peatlands cover only 3% of the planet’s total area, they contain 30% of all carbon stored in soils (550 billion tons of CO2) – twice as much as all the world’s forests.
When drained, the water level in the swamps is artificially reduced, and this starts the process of decomposition of the organic part of peat with the participation of oxygen. As the soil dries, organic matter releases nutrients, but then the soil loses potassium and then phosphorus, and droughts begin. As a result, peatlands cease to be a storehouse of carbon and become a powerful source of global emissions.
The life of a swamp is water, and when it disappears, so does the life of biodiversity. Therefore, the drainage of these lands does not make sense in the long run – it is an incredible waste of resources on our planet.
WWF states that maintaining wetlands in their natural state brings many benefits to the region:
- water purification and increasing soil fertility,
- flood protection and soil erosion control,
- content of toxic and nutrients,
- microclimate stabilization,
- absorption of carbon dioxide, responsible for climate change, and large amounts of oxygen release.
The economic benefits for the local population include the development of ecotourism in biodiversity-rich floodplains.
We have to keep what’s left!