Trees and Doodlebugs Emit Methane – the Question is, How?


Trees and insects may play a significant role in the emission of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – and improving our understanding of exactly how this happens could help in targeting more effective ways to fight global warming.

Because methane has more than 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 20 years, the emissions from trees – and any changes in these due to global warming – may have significant implications for Earth’s climate.

‘We have seen aerobic methane emissions (from tree canopies), and these have a strong pattern over the day,’ said Dr Mari Pihlatie, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

She and her team in the MEMETRE research project are tracing the methane to see if it is produced in the leaves alongside photosynthesis, or if it is soil-borne gas flowing up through the trunk, or from other activities in the trunk itself.

‘It seems that boreal tree canopies emit methane in the daytime, not in the night time, and that the methane emissions follow photosynthetic activity and radiation (sunlight),’ Dr Pihlatie said.

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