By Allison O’Donnell, Written Communications Specialist, CT IWR
One of the many benefits wetlands provide is the transfer of excess nitrogen in soil water back into the air- a process known as denitrification. Randi Mendes, a Ph.D candidate researching soil denitrification in wetlands with the Vadas Group, says this process results in greenhouse gas emission, the type of gas that contributes to global warming and climate change.
CT IWR is funding the University of Connecticut’s Dr. Tim Vadasto help better understand and identify methods of reducing wetland’s greenhouse gas emissions. This research would lend itself to designing a water treatment process through wetlands.
“It’s one of those gases that we’re really concerned about figuring out why it’s occurring in the environment and how to reduce that emission,” said Mendes.
Nitrogen is naturally occurring, but water runoff results in excess amounts in wetlands from using pesticides, additives for crops or natural pollutants from people. Soil makeup plays a role in how much greenhouse gas is produced, so Mendes’ research focuses on “isolating those environmental factors that are actually contributing to more [greenhouse gas] release, so we can potentially modify our environmental system to prevent that from occurring.”
Treatment wetlands are man-made ecosystems that naturally help remove pollutants from our environment. Mendes says that this research can be applied to the design of treatment wetlands and areas that receive a lot of rain runoff before that water reaches lakes, rivers or oceans.
“If we can design those systems better so that we’re not only cleaning, but also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from these to make it an overall better system,” said Mendes. “Hopefully, in the grander scheme of things we can help with reducing the human impact on climate change.”