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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Global wetland contribution to 2000-2012 atmospheric methane growth rate dynamics


Increasing atmospheric methane (CH4) concentrations have contributed to approximately 20% of anthropogenic climate change. Despite the importance of CH4 as a greenhouse gas, its atmospheric growth rate and dynamics over the past two decades, which include a stabilization period (1999-2006), followed by renewed growth starting in 2007, remain poorly understood. We provide an updated estimate of CH4 emissions from wetlands, the largest natural global CH4 source, for 2000-2012 using an ensemble of biogeochemical models constrained with remote sensing surface inundation and inventory-based wetland area data. Between 2000-2012, boreal wetland CH4 emissions increased by 1.2 Tg yr-1 (-0.2-3.5 Tg yr-1), tropical emissions decreased by 0.9 Tg yr-1 (-3.2-1.1 Tg yr-1), yet globally, emissions remained unchanged at 184 22 Tg yr-1. Changing air temperature was responsible for increasing high-latitude emissions whereas declines in low-latitude wetland area decreased tropical emissions; both dynamics are consistent with features of predicted centennial-scale climate change impacts on wetland CH4 emissions. Despite uncertainties in wetland area mapping, our study shows that global wetland CH4 emissions have not contributed significantly to the period of renewed atmospheric CH4 growth, and is consistent with findings from studies that indicate some combination of increasing fossil fuel and agriculture-related CH4 emissions, and a decrease in the atmospheric oxidative sink.

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