Kempka, Richard G. (Ducks Unlimited, Inc., National Headquarters, One Waterfowl Way, Memphis, TN, 38120-2351; Phone: 901-758-3795; Fax: 901-758-3850; Email:


Wetlands Restoration and the Emerging Carbon Market


Richard G. Kempka *


Most energy companies have reviewed present and future greenhouse gas liabilities as part of corporate strategic planning and are actively analyzing options to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions profiles either by reducing company-generated emissions or by offsetting company emissions. Companies that are proactive in addressing greenhouse gas emissions are positioning themselves as leaders in the market place. Well-designed terrestrial carbon sequestration projects – such as reforestation and grassland restoration - offer cost-effective carbon offsets, as well as benefits to local communities, wildlife habitat, and associated biodiversity. In addition, properly designed projects can provide other vital eco-assets such as cleaner water and flood control.   Corporate investment in terrestrial carbon sequestration offsets today will yield significant carbon benefits in future years.  This presentation will discuss credible, cost-effective, high-quality terrestrial carbon sequestration offset opportunities.


Wetlands are collectively a large global carbon reservoir, storing nearly 33% of all soil organic carbon even though they represent only about 4% of the landmass.  Prairie potholes and forested wetlands represent over 50% of the wetlands in the conterminous U.S.   Forested wetlands are known to be significant carbon sinks, but less information exists regarding carbon sequestration value of prairie wetlands.  Prairie soils, in general, are significant reservoirs of terrestrial carbon.  Two key regions for wetlands are the Prairie Pothole Region in the north central U.S., and the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley extending from the southern tip of Illinois to southern Louisiana.   Both regions have experienced millions of acres of land clearing, agricultural conversion and wetland and associated upland habitat loss that have directly contributed to several important local and regional environmental issues (i.e., non-point source water quality, increased flooding, Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, etc.).   The emerging carbon market could provide significant conservation opportunities with positive impacts for these regions if appropriately planned, targeted and delivered.  A significant proportion of the marginal agricultural lands could be restored to the former prairie grassland and bottomland hardwood systems with funding from carbon investors, thereby providing environmental benefits to society and an economic return to the farmers.   However, these kinds of projects must abide by important scientific and policy guidelines to attract investors and have ecological merit.   This presentation will discuss Ducks Unlimited, Inc., and partners’ efforts to develop quality carbon offset projects and promote collateral-benefits of terrestrial sequestration via wetland and upland restoration.  It will discuss the potential role of wetlands in this emerging market and how they may fit into corporate strategic planning that is actively analyzing options to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in advance of a potential regulatory environment.