13 Jun 2023

New Danish research centre will investigate wetlands’ potential in fighting global climate change

Over the next six years, the Global Wetland Center will acquire more knowledge on how wetlands can reduce the emission and increase the absorption of greenhouse gases. The new research centre is established by DHI A/S, University of Copenhagen and GEUS and is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with DKK 60 million.

Nations all over the world struggle to reach their climate targets, and wetlands can make a crucial difference. Wetlands only constitute a small part of the planet’s total land mass but are critical to the absorption and emission of several greenhouse gases and are also important habitats for many endangered plant and animal species.

Over recent decades, many wetland areas have been drained for farming or urbanisation, and this has resulted in loss of biodiversity and in increased emission of greenhouse gases, as the collected carbon in the wetlands are released into the atmosphere as CO2. Peatlands for example only constitute about 3% of Earth’s land mass but they store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests combined.

There is therefore major potential in including wetlands in climate change mitigation but also a critical need for more accurate calculations of the emissions and knowledge about the most efficient solutions. This need is partly due to an information gap on the exact size and location of the wetlands as well as uncertainties about the total greenhouse balance for the wetland areas.

Now, experts and scientists from DHI, University of Copenhagen and GEUS, The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, are joining forces to set up a new Danish research centre, the Global Wetland Center (GWC). The centre is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The three parties will jointly create more insights into how to best include wetlands in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

GWC will focus on research and innovation within digital modelling tools, artificial intelligence and satellite data with an ambition to be able to provide nations all over the world with knowledge and concrete solutions to their work on reaching climate targets. The centre’s work will also lead to recommendations which will be presented to political decision makers through the centre’s close affiliation with UN’s environmental programme, UNEP. DHI already collaborates closely with UNEP through their joint UNEP-DHI Centre.

‘The objective of the centre is to enhance the ability to model wetlands’ contribution to the global greenhouse gas budgets and design mitigation strategies. We are very pleased that the Novo Nordisk Foundation has chosen to support the establishment of the Global Wetland Center to enable us to increase our knowledge and work within wetlands’ role in climate change mitigation and adaptation,’

says Mette Vestergaard, CEO at DHI.

Guy Schurgers from the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at University of Copenhagen and head of the new centre, states:

‘To understand the interaction between hydrology and biochemistry in the global wetlands, we will develop modelling tools in the Global Wetland Center, which combine field observations, experiments, satellite-based observations and technologies based on artificial intelligence. These new models will convert the greenhouse gas balance into a measurable unit and help develop management strategies that can reduce emissions and support a global shift towards climate neutrality.’

The centre will be established in 2024 and will be headquartered in Copenhagen and operate globally.

About DHI A/S

DHI A/S is a global digital advisory company headquartered in Denmark. DHI A/S was founded in 1964 and has more than 1,000 employees worldwide. Our ambition is to enable the sustainable development of the world’s water resources through digital advisory services for decision-makers in the water industry.

For further information, please contact Annette Mystek, DHI Global People & Communication on +45 2088 7770.

About Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen

The Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management provides knowledge and education to help solve the big societal challenges, such as climate change and increased pressure on natural resources. The Department is part of the Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen – the largest natural science research and educational institution in Denmark.

Contact information

Guy Schurgers:
Associate Professor and head of Global Wetland Center
Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
University of Copenhagen

About Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen

The Department of Computer Science at University of Copenhagen (DIKU) is the first computer science department in Denmark, established by Peter Naur in 1970. Since then, researchers and graduates have formed the basis for society’s accelerating technological transformation, and the department’s research environment and results have made it one of Europe’s leading and most attractive computer science departments.

Contact information

Christian Igel:
Professor, Machine Learning
Department of Computer Science
University of Copenhagen

About GEUS, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) is an internationally oriented, independent research and advisory institution within the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities. GEUS carries out activities to exploit and protect geological resources in Denmark and Greenland. Primary activities are mapping, compilation and storage of data, research, monitoring and consultancy within water, energy, minerals and climate and environment.

About Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Programme

The Challenge Programme targets ambitious research projects within annually selected themes that address some of the major societal and planetary challenges. Every year, the Novo Nordisk Foundation defines new themes that comprise the framework for calls for applications in open competition within that one year. The Challenge Programme gives leading researchers the opportunity to assemble a strong team that can collaborate to develop solutions to the challenges. The Programme provides substantial, long-term funding to enable scientific depth and focus and facilitate synergy between the research partners.