Methane emissions from tree stems: a new frontier in the global carbon cycle

Josep Barba, Mark Bradford, Paul Brewer, Dan Bruhn, Kristofer Covey, Joost van Haren, Patrick Megonigal, Teis Norgaard Mikkelsen, Sunitha Pangala, Mari Katriina Pihlatie, Ben Poulter, Abert Rivas-Ubach, Christopher Schadt, Kazuhiko Terazawa, Daniel Warner, Zhen Chang, Rodrigo Vargas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review


Tree stems from wetland, floodplain and upland forests can produce and emit methane (CH4). Tree CH4 stem emissions have high spatial and temporal variability, but there is no consensus on the biophysical mechanisms that drive stem CH4 production and emissions. Here, we summarize up to 30 opportunities and challenges for stem CH4 emissions research, which, when addressed, will improve estimates of the magnitudes, patterns and drivers of CH4 emissions and trace their potential origin. We identified the need: (1) for both long-term, high-frequency measurements of stem CH4 emissions to understand the fine-scale processes, alongside rapid large-scale measurements designed to understand the variability across individuals, species and ecosystems; (2) to identify microorganisms and biogeochemical pathways associated with CH4 production; and (3) to develop a mechanistic model including passive and active transport of CH4 from the soil-tree-atmosphere continuum. Addressing these challenges will help to constrain the magnitudes and patterns of CH4 emissions, and allow for the integration of pathways and mechanisms of CH4 production and emissions into process-based models. These advances will facilitate the upscaling of stem CH4 emissions to the ecosystem level and quantify the role of stem CH4 emissions for the local to global CH4 budget.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • CH4 transport
  • methane emissions
  • methanogenesis
  • spatial variability
  • temporal variability
  • tree stems
  • upland forests
  • wetland forests
  • SOIL
  • ROOT
  • 1172 Environmental sciences
  • 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology

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