Protecting Scottish coastal wetlands may be vital to mitigate the impacts of climate change, according to researchers at the University of St Andrews.
Coastal wetlands are one of the most threatened habitats on the planet, threatened by coastal development, rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
The wetlands play a vital role in trapping and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere contributing to global warming.
According to researchers from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, the degradation or damage of these ecosystems may cause the carbon to be released from the soil back into the atmosphere, at the same time compromising the lands ability to capture and store carbon in the future.
The researchers are working in partnership with the Scottish government to better understand the role that protecting the wetlands might play in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
They hope to provide evidence that will influence government policies to protect and restore these habitats to maximise their carbon storage capabilities.
Project lead Professor Bill Austin said: ‘While the current Covid-19 lock-down is seriously impacting both field and laboratory activities, we have been seeking creative ways to develop desk-top research initiatives.
‘In this case, using existing mapping and field-data, we are able to deliver a new, first-order assessment of these carbon stores around Scotland.
‘Im delighted that Marine Scotland has funded this research, highlighting the Scottish Governments commitment to nature-based solutions to help tackle the global climate emergency.
‘As we transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic and our global economies begin to recover, I am encouraged that we can look forward to a greater understanding and appreciation of our environment. In some small way, I hope that our research will support that ambition.’
Late last year, a report published by the Environment Agency revealed that coastal towns will be the most affected by climate change. According to the report, 7,000 homes are at risk of coastal erosion, and 520,000 are in areas that have a high risk of coastal flooding.
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