Trees produce 33% of the world's methane each year
A team led by Frank Keppler from the Max-Planck Institute in Germany has discovered that plants produce up to one-third of the second most important greenhouse gas - methane.
12th January 2006
It is unclear how this important fact has been missed, but Mr. Keppler is sure that plants worldwide produce millions of tonnes of methane each year, with the greatest share coming from the tropics, and that the plant contribution is likely to count for 10–30 per cent of annual methane emissions.
The research could help explain why the build-up of methane in the atmosphere is slowing down — a trend that could be due to global deforestation.
However, longer term the work is likely to lead to a re-evaluation of the value of preserving and planting forests to capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and is also likely to lead to changes to the Kyoto protocol.
"We now have the spectre that new forests might increase greenhouse warming through methane emissions rather than decrease it by storing carbon dioxide", says David Lowe of the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.
Methane emissions from plants might even increase as the world temperature increases. Keppler's team found that plants produce more methane at higher temperatures, the amount doubling every ten degrees above 30 degrees Celsius.
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