Salt marshes that have been previously turned into farmland could be restored and their ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere resumed.
This is the conclusion of a new study conducted by Annette Burden, a wetland biogeochemist based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Bangor. Looking at the oldest area in the UK, Tollestbury, which has been transformed from a salt marsh into farmland back in the 18th century, and then eventually relinquished in 1995, the scientist was able to identify that the land is now absorbing carbon again.
It will take quite some time before the land has reached its maximum potential again, but anyway it cannot have been expected otherwise. Basing their findings on a study conducted in 2010, Burden and her team are certain that it could take another century, before the land is functioning as an undisturbed salt marsh.
In order to convert farmland into its original state, coastal defences should be broken, allowing water to flood the land again.
Besides carbon storage, the benefits of salt marsh restoration are many. These include improvements of biodiversity in the area and creation of buffer zones, which protect the coastline from flooding , saving governmental money, which should have been spent on defences.
In the UK, similar efforts are made towards restoring peat bogs too, because of the large areas that could be restored. However, Burden is certain that salt marshes could be just as important for storing carbon.
The scientist is now working on evaluating different lands that have not been farmed for years due to breaking of flood defences. She is certain that these will help her establish the process of restoring farmland back into salt marshes.