U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Nahlik, A. M. & Fennessy, M. S. Carbon storage in US wetlands. Nat. Commun. 7, 13835 doi: 10.1038/ncomms13835 (2016).


Copyright The Author(s) 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Wetland soils contain some of the highest stores of soil carbon in the biosphere. However, there is little understanding of the quantity and distribution of carbon stored in our remaining wetlands or of the potential effects of human disturbance on these stocks. Here we use field data from the 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment to provide unbiased estimates of soil carbon stocks for wetlands at regional and national scales. We find that wetlands in the conterminous United States store a total of 11.52 PgC, much of which is within soils deeper than 30 cm. Freshwater inland wetlands, in part due to their substantial areal extent, hold nearly ten-fold more carbon than tidal saltwater sites—indicating their importance in regional carbon storage. Our data suggest a possible relationship between carbon stocks and anthropogenic disturbance. These data highlight the need to protect wetlands to mitigate the risk of avoidable contributions to climate change.