Earth News Journal 14: Carbon Storage in Riparian Zones

The main topic of the second article I located for the primary source article requirement discussed the restoration of streamside forests in agricultural regions, and how this preservation would increase carbon storage and improve carbon quality.

Carbon is one of the five major components that affect the creek ecosystem – water, sulfur, phosphorus, and nitrogen being the remaining factors. When referring to global carbon reserves, a significant portion of this carbon is found in forests, specifically in forest soils.

Wetlands especially attract a high concentration of carbon because decomposition is slower in the soils that contain traces of water. The highest proportion of carbon is found in living trees, while the highest concentration of detrial-based carbon is located, again, in forest soils.

One of the problems with maintaining a high-carbon reserve around creek ecosystems is when headwater stream forests are removed, in order to maximize arable land for farmer benefits and additional crops. This reduction in the surrounding ecosystem lessens the water quality, by increasing soil erosion, decreasing the capacity for nutrient uptake and denitrification, reducing the habitat quality, as well as stream particulate organic carbon, thereby increasing carbon in the atmosphere.

Headwater riparian zones are important hotspots for influencing water quality because most areas are recipients of nonpoint source pollution near agricultural landscapes. Only 40% of potential carbon is stored in a creek ecosystem without mature forest buffers surrounding the creek.

By strengthening mature forest buffers, one would find an increase in water quality, as well as an increase in habitat quality. Atmosphere carbon would also decrease, thereby contributing positively to the efforts against global warming and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.


I believe the preservation of carbon throughout the freshwater creek habitat is vital for maintaining biodiversity. Carbon is one of the basic building blocks in carbohydrates, fats, proteins, DNA, and other organic compounds in life processes. Without preserving carbon storages, we are damaging ecosystems and biomes, ultimately lessening the potential for life to thrive on Earth. However, by restoring streamside forests in agricultural regions, specifically, we can increase carbon storage and improve water quality. I am encouraged that through acts of headwater riparian zone preservation, we can decrease atmospheric carbon, thereby helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately global warming. But, I don’t think that by increasing carbon storage in forest areas is enough to prevent the spread of global warming. If individuals were to be more cautious and mindful of the carbon emissions being released by human activities, then ecologists wouldn’t have to hunt for extra storage locations in the natural environment. By curbing carbon output, we would also be minimizing carbon input of plants and vegetation. While preserving aquatic riparian zones would aid the overall health of the creek ecosystem, humans can do more to make an impact on the curbing of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Rheinhardt, Richard D., Mark M. Brinson, Gregory F. Meyer, and Kevin H. Miller. “Carbon Storage of Headwater Riparian Zones in an Agricultural Landscape.” (2012): n. pag.Carbon Balance and Management. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

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