Chamber measurements find plants potentially important methane sink

Dec 18, 2012

As a greenhouse gas, methane has a much higher heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide when considered over the course of a few decades. In recent years, researchers discovered a potentially important new source of atmospheric methane-emissions from green plants.

Though estimates of the extent of vegetative vary greatly, previous research suggests they could amount to as much as a tenth of global annual emissions. The mechanism behind such emissions is a matter of considerable debate, with questions remaining regarding the effects of atmospheric or , local hydrological influences, and variability for different plant species. Also under investigation are various potential plant methane uptake mechanisms, or the effects of methane- consuming bacteria-aspects of the methane cycle that could dampen plants' role as a methane source.

To determine the overall effect of some boreal tree species on , Sundqvist et al. used branch chamber measurements to directly assess the net gas exchange for birch, spruce, pine, and rowan trees in a Swedish forest. The authors find that all four tree species were net absorbers of atmospheric methane, meaning they served as a sink rather than a source. The authors analyzed how the methane exchange varied with changes in the availability of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), temperature, photosynthesis rate, and ultraviolet . For birch, spruce and rowan trees, but not pine, they find that an increase in PAR caused the trees to take up more methane. They find that temperature changes had inconsistent effects on methane exchange.

The authors suggest that plants could actually be an important global sink, rather than source, for atmospheric methane.

Explore further: Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

More information: Atmospheric methane removal by boreal plants, Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2012GL053592, 2012

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wetlands the primary source of Amazon Basin methane

Aug 31, 2012

The Amazon basin is an important sink of carbon dioxide, but it is also a substantial source of atmospheric methane. Tropical wetlands, including those in the Amazon, are one of the largest sources of biogenic methane and ...

Diseased trees new source of climate gas

Aug 07, 2012

Diseased trees in forests may be a significant new source of methane that causes climate change, according to researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies in Geophysical Research Letters.

Plant life not a villain in methane emissions debate

Jan 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A comprehensive investigation of plant emissions led by University of South Australia molecular biologist Dr Ellen Nisbet has put pay to the assertion that plants are producing and releasing ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

22 hours ago

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...