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Wetland restoration called into question

BERKELEY, Calif., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Wetland restoration, a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States, rarely matches the quality of a natural, undamaged wetland, a researcher says.

David Moreno-Mateos, a University of California, Berkeley, post-doctoral fellow, says his study suggest it can take hundreds of years for restored wetlands to accumulate the plants and carbon resources of its natural counterpart.

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"Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn't recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years," Moreno-Mateos said in a university release Tuesday.

"Even after 100 years, the restored wetland is still different from what was there before, and it may never recover."

Wetlands tend to recover most slowly if they are in cold regions, if they are small -- less than or 250 acres -- or if they are disconnected from tides or river flows, he said.

A common mitigation strategy exploited by land developers who create a new wetland to replace a wetland destroyed and put to other uses is ineffective, he said.

"Wetlands accumulate a lot of carbon, so when you dry up a wetland for agricultural use or to build houses, you are just pouring this carbon into the atmosphere," he said.

"If we keep degrading or destroying wetlands, for example through the use of mitigation banks, it is going to take centuries to recover the carbon we are losing."

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