The Impact of Climate Change on Prairie Potholes

Can you think of all of the natural assets in the state of North Dakota? Most people would be surprised at how many we actually have. One in particular that is sparking a lot of debate in climate forums in Copenhagen is Prairie Wetlands. Wetlands serve as nature-made carbon sinks, storing carbon and using water plants to convert carbon dioxide into biomass. These land potholes cover a large portion of North Dakota and are home to a number of waterfowl species, mainly ducks and geese.

Every year hundreds of hunters travel to the state for the wide scope of game that can be found in North Dakota. Annually, $5,040,845 is allocated to the state of North Dakota by sportsmen. These contributions (in the form of taxes paid on firearms, ammunition and state licenses) support the conservation of wildlife populations. Hunters are valued members of the conservation community and should be advocates for strong climate legislation within their home states.

Because the agricultural industry is the largest source of income for the state, many farmers are draining these potholes to create more farm land, leading to the destruction of waterfowl habitat. This is a scary thought considering wetlands are essential to the general wellbeing of citizens as they control flooding, expand biodiversity, mitigate climate change, as well as provide food and water.

Prairie potholes play a role in carbon sequestration serving as natural carbon reservoirs. The magnitude of storage depends upon wetland type and size, vegetation, the depth of wetland soils, ground water levels, nutrient levels, and pH levels. These carbon reservoirs can emit large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere if they are drained or land use results in the oxidation of soil. As the agriculture industry begins to take over, it is quintessential that there are laws modifying land use practices.

Restoring wetlands is imperative for both the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. At the UNFCCC, I would like to see an international law requiring the preservation of these wetlands.The ACES Bill which is being voted upon in the Senate at the start of the new year, allots subsidies to farmers who keep these prairie potholes on their lands inside of draining them. This way no one is losing out! If you try hard enough, agreeable solutions can be made.


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