Woody stem methane emission in mature wetland alder trees

Gauci, Vincent; Gowing, David J. G.; Hornibrook, Edward R. C.; Davis, Joanna M. and Dise, Nancy B. (2010). Woody stem methane emission in mature wetland alder trees. Atmospheric Environment, 44(17) pp. 2157–2160.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2010.02.034


Methane (CH4) is an important greenhouse gas that is predominantly emitted to the atmosphere from anoxic wetland ecosystems. Understanding the sources and emissions of CH4 is crucially important for climate change predictions; however, there are significant discrepancies between CH4 source estimates derived via so-called bottom-up and top-down methods. Here we report CH4 emission from the stems of mature wetland alder (Alnus glutinosa) trees in the UK, a common tree of northern hemisphere floodplains and wetlands. The alder stems most likely behave as conduits for soil-produced CH4 either in the gaseous or aqueous phase, and may, therefore, help to reconcile methodological differences in the way the wetland CH4 source is estimated. Alder tree stems emitted average peak CH4 fluxes of 101 μg CH4 m−2 h−1 (on a stem area basis) in early October, a rate that is similar to that obtained from mature Japanese ash (Fraxinus mandshurica var. japonica) in Japan and amounting to approximately 20% of the measured CH4 flux from the soil surface. The finding suggests that trees, which occupy 60% of Earth's wetlands and are normally excluded from the measurement programmes that form the basis for bottom-up estimates of the global wetland source, could be important contributors to overall terrestrial ecosystem CH4 flux.

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