A study by an Iowa State University lake scientist finds small ponds play a big role in absorbing carbon from the air. Researcher John Downing says his findings go against what had been the conventional wisdom on the subject. Downing says people have assumed that because ponds are small, they don’t have much impact, but he says ponds are so active that they could be burying as much carbon as the world’s oceans, each year.

Downing says the rate the ponds work on the process is the key. He says they are running 10 to 100 times faster carbon sequestration than grasslands and forests. Downing says ponds get rid of carbon in a couple of ways. Downing says they pick up the carbon through runoff, and the algae in the pounds grab carbon and drop it down into the sediment.

Downing says the ability of ponds to capture carbon wasn’t a totally new idea. He says people have know for centuries that pond and lake sediments can preserve carbon and organic matter for long periods of time, as things like pieces of dead animals and mummies are often found in sediment. Downing says the ability of ponds to absorb carbon is starting to get more recognition.

Downing says some people around the world are talking about using pond construction as a way to gain carbon credits. Downing’s ongoing research will investigate the role of small Iowa lakes in the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other important gases such as methane.