A new insight has revealed that the world's ponds are capable of absorbing as much carbon as the oceans world over.
The research, led by Iowa State University lake scientist, John Downing, found that constructed ponds and lakes on farmland in the United States bury carbon at a much higher rate than expected; as much as 20-50 times the rate at which trees trap carbon.
In addition, ponds were found to take up carbon at a higher rate than larger lakes.
According to Downing, aquatic ecosystems play a disproportionately large role in the global carbon budget. Despite being overlooked in the past, it's small bodies of water that are important because they take up carbon at a high rate and there are more of them than previously thought, he said.
"The combined effect is that farm ponds could be burying as much carbon as the world's oceans, each year," he added.
Ponds capture carbon in two main ways:
The research estimated there are 304 million natural lakes and ponds in the world, covering an area of 4.2 million square kilometers, twice the area previously thought. As many as 90 percent of these water bodies are one hectare (two acres) or less in area.
According to Jeremy Biggs, Pond Conservation director of policy and research, the new research has exciting implications.
"It may be that ponds will be the modern equivalent of the swamps that formed coal in the past. But before we all rush into making ponds to trap carbon we need to do some basic research here in the UK," he said.
"If the rate of carbon uptake in ponds in Europe is the same as that found in the USA study, we may well have discovered an important new natural way of trapping carbon," Biggs added.