IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Global Inventory Of Wetlands And Their Role In The Carbon Cycle


  • Mitra, Sudip
  • Wassmann, Reiner
  • Vlek, Paul L.G.


Wetlands are among the most important natural resources on earth, as sources of biological, cultural and economic diversity. Conservation and management of wetlands have been identified as priority tasks for action in international conventions and regional policies, but extensive wetland area has been degraded in many developing countries. These continuing destruction demands to be restricted or at least slowed down. The primary objectives of this study were (i) assessing ecological functions and concepts for sustainable use of wetlands and (ii) compiling relevant information sources on geographic distribution of wetlands as well as their role in the global carbon budget. Wetlands comprise a pivotal global carbon reservoir and can moreover sequester additional carbon from the atmosphere in form of soil organic matter. Pristine wetland soils are a source of the greenhouse gas methane, but- under improper management - these soils emit even larger quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The discussion on wetland protection measures is thwarted by uncertainties in the estimated carbon pool sizes and flux rates. On the global scale, the estimates on the carbon pool size vary from 200 to 530 Gt C while our own assessment (by incorporating global soil maps) clearly points towards the lower end of this range. Likewise, estimates of the carbon sequestration potential of wetlands vary between 80 to 230 Tg C/ yr. These discrepancies may in part be due to inherent problems in global land cover surveys, but diverging definitions of the ecosystem 'wetlands' (especially in dealing with peatlands) are further confounding an appraisal of global wetland resources. Similar uncertainties as for the global estimates arise for the geographic distribution of wetlands as described in different data sources. The three published world maps on wetland resources only coincide in 20-30 % of the identified wetland area. Our compilation of data on quantity and distribution of the wetland carbon pool allows an identification of potential hot spots' of future emissions and could feed into development of research and conservation projects. There are many reasons in favor of protection or a 'wise use' of wetlands that maintains the basic features of the ecosystem. The significance of wetlands for the global carbon budget and thus, for climate change, is a crucial pro-conservation argument that has been substantiated in this study through findings from current research.

Suggested Citation

  • Mitra, Sudip & Wassmann, Reiner & Vlek, Paul L.G., 2003. "Global Inventory Of Wetlands And Their Role In The Carbon Cycle," Discussion Papers 18771, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:ubzefd:18771

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:ubzefd:18771. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.