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Scientists: Vanishing wetlands could release "carbon bomb"

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(Read caption) An aerial view of a marsh at the Rachel Carson Wildlife Sanctuary in Wells, Maine

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Draining marshes and other wetlands could hasten climate change, a group of experts meeting in Brazil this week warned.

Wetlands contain 771 tons of carbon dioxide and methane, said scientists gathered in the central western town of Cuiaba for a four-day wetlands-preservation conference hosted by the United Nations University and Brazil's Federal University of Mato Grasso (UFMT). The world's remaining wetlands hold about one-fifth of the world's carbon, an amount equivalent to that currently in the atmosphere.

A UN University press release warns that continued destruction of these wetlands could unleash the stored carbon into the atmosphere:

If the decline of wetlands continues through human and climate change-related causes, scientists fear the release of carbon from these traditional sinks could compound the global warming problem significantly, says Prof. Paulo Speller, Rector of UFMT. Drained tropical swamp forests release an estimated 40 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. Drained peat bogs release some 2.5 to 10 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.

"We could call it the carbon bomb," Paulo Teixeira of the Pantanal Regional Environment Program told Reuters. "It's a very tricky situation."

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