Chamber measurements find plants are potentially important methane sink

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Abstract

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. Although estimates of the extent of vegetative methane emissions 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 soil conditions, local hydrological influences, and variability for different plant species. Also under investigation are various potential plant methane uptake mechanisms and the effects of methane-consuming bacteria—aspects of the methane cycle that could dampen plants’ role as a methane source.