Research by scientists at Deakin University in Victoria has shown that freshwater wetlands could be up to 50 times more effective at storing carbon than rainforests. These wetlands have the potential to capture and store carbon for hundreds of years.

The study also found that swamps could store up to one-third of the amount of carbon stored in terrestrial soils and yet wetlands make up only 4% of the world’s surface.

The researchers, led by Dr Rebecca Lester, investigated how much carbon is stored in south-west Victorian wetlands and the impact of wetland restoration on the ability for these systems to hold carbon.

Wetlands once covering around 10% of the earth’s land mass. Many have been drained, as their characteristic build-up of organic matter makes excellent farming land. But Dr Lester says that “In the future, their agricultural value will have to be weighed against their value as carbon sinks,”

The Deakin University research is linked to a larger collaborative project, involving Flinders University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Arizona. This research is aimed at enhancing the potential for improving wetland carbon sequestration across temperate and semi-arid ecosystems in Australia, the USA and Mexico.