Trees and doodlebugs emit methane – the question is, how? | 1/7/2020 | Staff
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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.

Methane - Emissions - Tree - Canopies - Pattern

"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.

Boreal - Canopies - Methane - Daytime - Night

"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.

The indications are that, rather than being linked to photosynthesis, these tree trunk emissions are more likely linked to soil-based methane production being transported through the trees to the atmosphere. Another possibility is that it's produced through microbial methane formation inside the trunks themselves.

Methane - Fluxes - Trunks - Seasons - Nordic

Methane fluxes from tree trunks also vary with the seasons, rising in the Nordic summers and declining in the cold, dark winters. This seasonal variability poses questions about what may happen to the trees' contribution to the methane budget in the future, given changes in the global climate.

Dr. Pihlatie's research has been looking at pines, spruces and birches found in boreal forests in Finland and Sweden, which are typical of high northern latitudes in Europe, Asia and North America.

Team - Field

Her team is taking field...
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