Wetlands exist in a transition zone between aquatic and terrestrial environments which can be altered by subtle changes in hydrology. Twentieth century climate records show that the United States is generally experiencing a trend towards a wetter, warmer climate; some climate models suggest that his trend will continue and possibly intensify over the next 100 years. Wetlands that are most likely to be affected by these and other potential changes (e.g., sea-level rise) associated with atmospheric carbon enrichment include permafrost wetlands, coastal and estuarine wetlands, peatlands, alpine wetlands, and prairie pothote wetlands. Potential impacts range from changes in community structure to changes in ecological function, and from extirpation to enhancement. Wetlands (particularly boreal peatlands) play an important role in the global carbon cycle, generally sequestering carbon in the form of biomass, methane, dissolved organic material and organic sediment. Wetlands that are drained or partially dried can become a net source of methane and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, serving as a positive biotic feedback to global warming. Policy options for minimizing the adverse impacts of climate change on wetland ecosystems include the reduction of current anthropogenic stresses, allowing for inland migration of coastal wetlands as sea-level rises, active management to preserve wetland hydrology, and a wide range of other management and restoration options.
Additional Publication Details
Climate change: potential impacts and interactions in wetlands of the United States
Journal of the American Water Resources Association