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World Bank Releases Report on Mitigating Climate Change through Wetlands Restoration

March 2011: The World Bank has released a report titled "Mitigating Climate Change through Restoration and Management of Coastal Wetlands and Near-shore Marine Ecosystems," which finds that drainage and degradation of coastal wetlands emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere and lead to decreased carbon sequestration.

The report, written in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and wetland specialists ESA PWA, underscored the need for: protecting coastal wetlands; creating incentives for avoiding their degradation and improving their restoration; and including the protection of these ecosystems in carbon emission reduction strategies and in climate negotiations.

The report highlights that the current rates of degradation and loss of coastal wetlands and destruction of about 20% of the worlds' mangroves has led to the release of centuries of accumulated carbon. This has also disturbed the natural protection against storm surges and other extreme weather events. Of the 15 coastal deltas studied in the report, seven were found to have released more than 500 million tons of carbon dioxide each since the wetlands were drained, mostly in the past 100 years.

Mangroves, tidal marshes and sea-grass meadows remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil, where it can stay for millenniums. Unlike terrestrial forests, these marine ecosystems are continuously building carbon pools, storing huge amounts of “blue carbon” in the sediment below them. When these systems are degraded due to drainage or conversion for agriculture and aquaculture, they emit large and continuous amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

According to the report, managing coastal ecosystems for the range of services they provide can complement existing approaches to nature-based solutions to reduce the effects of climate change. Such investments have the potential to link to REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation  in developing countries, as well as conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks ) and other carbon financing mechanisms, provided that protocols on accounting, verification and reporting of net carbon uptake can be agreed. [Publication: Mitigating Climate Change through Restoration and Management of Coastal Wetlands and Near-shore Marine Ecosystems]