Can the restoration and management of Mediterranean wetlands increase the CO2 absorption capacity of a wetland?
In the framework of the European LIFE Wetlands4Climate project, IUCN member Fundación Global Nature (Spain) is working in 10 different wetlands across the Iberian Peninsula. The main goal is to identify the most suitable restoration and conservation measures in each case that allow to improve their carbon absorption capacity.
Photo: Fundación Global Nature
By monitoring both carbon inputs and outputs, LIFE Wetlands4Climate aims to determine if each pilot wetland is functioning as a sink or, on the contrary, as a source of emissions.
"We must bear in mind that the more the global temperature rises, the less sequestration capacity these ecosystems will have. Only healthy ecosystems will be able to avoid the worst consequences of climate change," explains Vanessa Sánchez from GFN.
Understanding the carbon cycle is not only key to optimise the provision of climate mitigation services, but also of other services related to its optimal ecological functioning and conservation status. In this way, guidelines will be established to optimise the capacity of each of the wetlands.
Simultaneous benefits for nature and the local community
Two years ago, as a part of another LIFE project, Fundación Global Nature acquired 24 cows and entrusted their care to Francisco Panella, a sheep and goat caretaker based in the area of Marjal de Pego-Oliva National Park. No presence of cows had been registered in the area in the last fifteen years. According to Francisco, thanks to the introduction of cows in the wetland, routes are opening up and pathways are being made accessible once again.
Antonio Guillem, project coordinator at FGN, explains the importance of this process: “Managing vegetation is something necessary - either with the help of wild herbivores or through human action. If the vegetation is not removed, year after year it will grow and eventually die. If it dies and falls into the water, it decomposes and instead of fixing carbon, it releases methane”, he points out.
Moreover, the project uses amphibious mowers to remove vegetation, which is then crushed, dried and transported to farms, so that it can be used as bedding for livestock. In this sense, FGN has established agreements with farmers in the three project regions (Comunitat Valenciana, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León), who benefit directly from the wetland management actions.
“Our main goal is to avoid losing money. The way cattle farming works nowadays, if it weren't for these projects, it wouldn't be viable to keep the cows here", explains Francisco.
As part of the follow-up actions, the project has opened various communication channels to promote social participation, as well as to involve the local population in valuing ecosystem services. Both the socioeconomic improvements and the environmental improvements that these natural spaces can provide are being currently analysed.
With the results obtained from the different actions, guides for wetland management will be published with recommendations to enhance their capacity to store carbon while maintaining their ecological integrity. In addition, the project will work with the private sector to agree on a methodology that can qualify for funds in the voluntary carbon market, thus promoting the transition to a decarbonised economy.
Wetlands4Climate is a project supported by the European Commission through the LIFE financial instrument, which is coordinated by Fundación Global Nature and executed in collaboration with the Agencie Efe, the Valencia Climate and Energy Foundation, and the Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology of the University of Valiencia.
A team from the University of Valencia, coordinated by Professor Antonio Camacho, is leading the research. In its first phase, the project is supported by the Fundación Biodiversidad, CSIC, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition of the Regional Government of Valencia, the Department of Conservation of Natural Areas and Devesa-Albufera of the Valencia City Council and the Torreblanca City Council.
For more information contact Fundación Global Nature