Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2). It is now accepted that methane is generated naturally by microbial anaerobic processes occurring in wetlands, rice farming, landfill sites, and ruminants, i.e. cows. However, recent research has suggested that vegetation may also release methane via an, as yet unknown, aerobic pathway. Such an aerobic pathway would help explain the observation of unexpectedly high concentrations of methane over tropical forests, and may well represent a significant global source of methane. The big questions that remain is how terrestrial plants generate this aerobic methane? And how large is this potential methane source in terms of the global carbon budget?
Our research group, based at the University of Edinburgh, is investigating various environmental stress factors that may play a role in causing methane release from terrestrial vegetation, including reactive oxygen species (ROS), and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. By gaining an understanding of the mechanisms of aerobic methane emissions from plants, we will be better positioned to inform global carbon budget calculations and evaluate the role of tropical vegetation in carbon sequestration efforts.