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Inventory of global methane sources and their production rates


  • J. C. Sheppard,

  • H. Westberg,

  • J. F. Hopper,

  • K. Ganesan,

  • P. Zimmerman


On the basis of 17 ecosystems, it is estimated that 9.1×1014 g CH4/year are emitted into the atmosphere from the biosphere. Enteric fermentation in animals and humans, decomposition of organic wastes, and biomass burning contribute an additional 2.0×1014 g CH4/yr. Various fossil sources emit another 1×1014 g CH4/yr. When all sources are considered, they emit 12.1×1014 g CH4 each year. As with earlier inventories, this study indicates that the fossil methane contribution is less than 10% of the total annual global production rate. Chemical kinetic relationships are established between the bacteriamediated anaerobic decomposition of humic matter, the mean residence time (MRT) of humus, and methane fluxes. These equations and the 14C specific activity are used to obtain an average MRT of 1365 years for the earth's 1.8×1018 grams of humic carbon. Use of the global methane production rate and the concentration of atmospheric methane results in an average 3.3 year residence time and an average global hydroxyl radical concentration of 2.7×106 per cm3.