Droughts threatening the world’s wetlands

Sydney, Australia, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- Droughts, which are becoming increasingly frequent due to climate change, are threatening the world’s wetlands by causing serious and sometimes irreversible damage, according to a scientific study released on Friday.

The areas of great biodiversity occupy an area of 12 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles) worldwide and help to control flooding in addition to being an important source of food and water and contribute about $27 trillion globally each year, according to researchers.

“Wetlands around the world are incredibly important for maintaining our planet’s biodiversity and they store vast amounts of carbon that can help fight climate change,” said project leader Associate Professor Luke Mosley, from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and School of Biological Sciences, in a statement.

The study, published in the scientific journal “Earth-Science Reviews,” highlighted that droughts often lead to severe cracking, compaction, acidification and loss of organic matter, as well as an increase in emissions of polluting gases, including methane.

The various chemical and physical changes that occur during a drought can cause long-term changes to soil, meaning that the impacts may last for more than 10 years, or be irreversible, especially impacts on water quality, according to the Australian university’s statement.

The study shows that wetlands can suffer “water droughts” as a result of a drier climate and when excessive water that would normally flow into them is extracted or diverted.

The effects of droughts vary across different soil types and regions of the world although many places in south and central America, as well as Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, are believed to be more vulnerable to the effects of drought due to climate change.

“At a global level, wet soils are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and need to be protected given the very high environmental and socio-economic values they support,” said lead author Erinne Stirling, from Zhejiang University in China and the University of Adelaide.

She explained that the study has revealed the lack of readily available published research on drought-affected wet soils in many parts of the world as well as applied research into water management outcomes for wetlands and wetland soils.

“It is our sincere hope that the information in this review contributes to protecting these valuable ecosystems,” she added. EFE-EPA


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