Biotechnology / Delaware

Delaware Environmental Institute fellow studies wetlands to understand climate change

Mohammad Afsar is conducting research in Blackbird State Forest.

Artist rendering of a restored 14-acre freshwater tidal wetland habitat in South Wilmington, complete with a trail system. (Courtesy image)

This editorial article is a part of's Growing Industries month, when Delaware is focusing extra reporting on the topic of biotech.

As the climate changes, scientists need to be able to predict how these changes will affect soil stability. Mohammad Afsar, a Delaware Environmental Institute fellow, is studying a Delmarva Bay freshwater wetland in Blackbird State Forest in Smyrna with University of Delaware professor Yan Jin to help them do just that, according to UDaily.

“The research will improve our understanding of how organic matter is released and transported in these environments,” reports the UD news site. “Wetlands cover only 8–10 percent of the world’s land surface, but they store 20–30 percent of global soil carbon.”

According to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC), nearly any location in Delaware is within one mile of wetland. About a quarter of Delaware land is wetlands, including the salt marshes of the Delaware Bay, freshwater tidal marshes near the Christina River, the shallow fen at Cherry Walk Creek, and the Bald Cypress Swamp in Trap Pond State Park. (You can follow the conditions of Delaware’s wetlands at DNREC’s Open Data portal).

While some wetlands are rarely visited by people other than researchers like Afsar, some urban wetlands such as the Christina River’s in South Wilmington are being transformed into public parks, where they can be enjoyed similarly to green spaces and forests, while restoring them and utilizing them for climate change research as water levels rise.

Afsar’s research focuses on carbon chemistry, and the way organic matter transfers from one body to another via wetlands.

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Series: Growing Industries Month 2019

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