Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Terrestrial wetlands

November 1, 2018

1. The assessment of terrestrial wetland carbon stocks has improved greatly since the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (CCSP 2007) because of recent national inventories and the development of a U.S. soils database. Terrestrial wetlands in North America encompass an estimated 2.2 million km2, which constitutes about 37% of the global wetland area, with a soil and vegetation carbon pool of about 161 petagrams of carbon that represents approximately 36% of global wetland carbon stock. Forested wetlands compose 55% of the total terrestrial wetland area, with the vast majority occurring in Canada. Organic soil wetlands or peatlands contain 58% of the total terrestrial wetland area and 80% of the carbon (high confidence, likely).

2. North American terrestrial wetlands currently are a carbon dioxide sink of about 123 teragrams of carbon (Tg C) per year, with approximately 53% occurring in forested systems. However, North American terrestrial wetlands are a natural source of methane (CH4), with mineral soil wetlands emitting 56% of the estimated total of 45 Tg C as CH4 (CH4 –C) per year (medium confidence, likely).

3. The current rate of terrestrial wetland loss is much less than historical rates (about 0.06% of the wetland area from 2004 to 2009), with restoration and creation nearly offsetting losses of natural wetlands. Although area losses are nearly offset, there is considerable uncertainty about the functional equivalence of disturbed, created, and restored wetlands when comparing them to undisturbed natural wetlands. Correspondingly, there remains considerable uncertainty about the effects of disturbance regimes on carbon stocks and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes. For this reason, studies and monitoring systems are needed that compare carbon pools, rates of carbon accumulation, and GHG fluxes across disturbance gradients, including restored and created wetlands. Those studies will produce data that are needed for model applications (high confidence, likely).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Terrestrial wetlands
DOI 10.7930/SOCCR2.2018.Ch13
Authors Randall Kolka, Carl Trettin, Wenwu Tang, Ken W. Krauss, Sheel Bansal, Judith Z. Drexler, Kimberly P. Wickland, Rodney A. Chimner, Dianna M. Hogan, Emily J. Pindilli, Brian Benscoter, Brian Tangen, Evan S. Kane, Scott D. Bridgham, Curtis J. Richardson
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70201054
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center