The Efficacy of Carbon Sequestration of Wetlands

2010 Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair

The abstract below was written by the student. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District made no editorial changes.

The Efficacy of Carbon Sequestration of Wetlands

by Jun Hong (Johnny) Kim, Junior, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


Since the introduction of the “no net loss” policy, wetland creation is increasingly used as a common practice both to address historical wetland losses and to mitigate new wetland impacts. Unfortunately, created wetlands often fail to support biotic communities comparable to naturally occurring wetlands. Mitigation wetland performance is typically evaluated with aboveground structure, which could not fully measure wetland function, such as carbon sequestration. Thus, it is important to study soil properties of wetlands to truly examine their functions.

Soil physicochemical properties such as soil moisture (SM) and soil temperature (ST) play an essential role in carbon sequestration since they directly affect the dynamics of carbon accumulation in wetland soils. Soil organic matter (SOM) and total carbon (TC) are often measured to study carbon sequestration of wetlands. The study measured SOM and TC along with SM and ST in four different wetlands – two created sites, LCMB (4 yr) and BR (8 yr), and two reference sites, BRNP and BP – over a two year period. Soil samples were collected with a soil probe within the top 10 cm in each of the allotted plots and analyzed for SOM, TC, and SM. TC was analyzed by CHN analyzer.

The results showed that the soil properties were different between the created and the natural wetlands. Although SOM values were not different among the wetlands (P=0.54), TC content was significantly higher in the natural wetlands. Natural wetlands also showed higher SM values, which may have contributed to the higher accumulation of organic carbon in the soil. One natural site (BRNP) showed a lower ST during the growing season, but overall there was no significant difference of ST between the sites. Thus, principal component analysis (multivariate) was performed with all soil properties measured. The results showed a close clustering of the data by ages of wetlands, indicating created wetlands are slowly catching up with natural wetlands. Further study is necessary to fully investigate the abilities of created wetlands in sequestering carbon.

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