Methane emission through trees in temperate and tropical wetlands

Pangala, Sunitha R.; Gauci, Vincent; Hornibrook, Edward R. C. and Gowing, David (2012). Methane emission through trees in temperate and tropical wetlands. In: AGU Fall Meeting, 3-7 Dec 2012, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Methane produced in wetland soil generally is thought to be emitted by a combination of three key processes: 1) diffusion through water-filled pores, 2) abrupt release of bubbles (ebullition), and 3) via internal spaces within the stems of herbaceous plants adapted to live in waterlogged soils. The capacity for trees to mediate methane emissions has received limited attention despite mesocosm studies of seedlings and saplings demonstrating that wetland trees have a significant capacity to transport soil-produced methane to the atmosphere. Notably ~60% of global wetlands are forested.

We present in situ measurements of methane flux from a temperate carr (swamp) composed of alder (Alnus glutinosa) and birch (Betula pubescens) situated in the United Kingdom and a tropical forested peat swamp located in Borneo. The in situ data are complemented by a mesocosm experiment in which methane emissions were measured from alder saplings subjected to two water-regime treatments. In both the in situ and mesocosm studies, emissions from trees are compared to methane flux from the ground surface, the latter occurring via pore water diffusion, ebullition or via the aerenchyma of herbaceous plants. We show that tree stem emissions are controlled by a number of factors including tree species, soil pore-water concentration and stem lenticel density. Our results demonstrate that the omission of tree-mediated methane fluxes from measurement campaigns conducted in forested wetland can significantly underestimate the total ecosystem flux of methane.

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