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Consumption of atmospheric methane by tundra soils

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

EMISSION of methane from tundra soil contributes about 10% of the global atmospheric methane budget1. Moreover, tundra soils contain 15% of global soil carbon2, so the response of this large carbon reservoir to projected global warming3,4 could be important. Coupled biological models3-6 predict that a warmer climate will increase methane emission through increased rates of methanogenesis. Microbial oxidation of methane is, however, a possible control on emissions that has previously been overlooked. Here we report the results of field and laboratory experiments on methane consumption by tundra soils. For methane concentrations ranging from below to well above ambient, moist soils were found to consume methane rapidly; in non-waterlogged soils, equilibration with atmospheric methane was fast relative to microbial oxidation. We conclude that lowering of the water table in tundra as a result of a warmer, drier climate will decrease methane fluxes and could cause these areas to provide a negative feedback for atmospheric methane. © 1990 Nature Publishing Group.

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