Emission of methane from plants

R.E.R Nisbet, R Fisher, R.H Nimmo, D.S Bendall, P.M Crill, A.V Gallego-Sala, E.R.C Hornibrook, E López-Juez, D Lowry, P.B.R Nisbet, E.F Shuckburgh, S Sriskantharajah, C.J Howe, E.G Nisbet

Abstract

It has been proposed that plants are capable of producing methane by a novel and unidentified biochemical pathway. Emission of methane with an apparently biological origin was recorded from both whole plants and detached leaves. This was the first report of methanogenesis in an aerobic setting, and was estimated to account for 10–45 per cent of the global methane source. Here, we show that plants do not contain a known biochemical pathway to synthesize methane. However, under high UV stress conditions, there may be spontaneous breakdown of plant material, which releases methane. In addition, plants take up and transpire water containing dissolved methane, leading to the observation that methane is released. Together with a new analysis of global methane levels from satellite retrievals, we conclude that plants are not a major source of the global methane production.

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Footnotes

    • Received November 23, 2008.
    • Accepted December 11, 2008.
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