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Plants Exhale Methane, Contribute to Warming
January 13, 2006 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Grasses and other green growth may produce 10 to 30 percent of Earth's annual methane output. German researcher Frank Keppler reports in Nature [reg req] that living plants give off between 60 and 240 million tonnes of methane per year, which may mean that the use of carbon sinks to offset CO2 emissions may need to be rethought. [Also: audio on NPR ]
posted by F Mackenzie (25 comments total)

 
well, crap.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2006


may mean that the use of carbon sinks to offset CO2 emissions may need to be rethought.

So what about, I dunno, reducing emissions? Crazy idea, I know...
posted by raedyn at 11:13 AM on January 13, 2006


Reducing emissions? And why would we ever do something as crazy as that?
posted by mrhappybanjo at 11:15 AM on January 13, 2006


Who farted?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2006


I'm sure that the new War on Green Growing Things will take care of a lot of this.
Burn the Grasses!!
I hear Haliburton has a new formula for Agent Orange...
posted by Balisong at 11:19 AM on January 13, 2006


Holy shit! Reagan was right all along!
posted by you just lost the game at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2006


Who farted?

Wasn't me. It was the golf course, I swear!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2006


It's not like people didn't know that plants give off methane.

We'd basicaly be trading methane for CO2. By the way, releasing 250 million tons of methane would actualy double the methane level in the air, according to me.
posted by delmoi at 11:24 AM on January 13, 2006


Who invented the whole "methane is in farts, therefore methane is smelly" thing? Because it's not true. Dummies.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:24 AM on January 13, 2006


However, if plants create 240 tons a year, then obviously most of the methane that gets produce "goes away" somehow each year, plus all the stuff we get from animals. What happens to it?
posted by delmoi at 11:26 AM on January 13, 2006


I would imagine most of it decomposes into CO2 and H20
posted by delmoi at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2006


Which turns to acid, which rots away limestone and carves out caves, which are great for exploring. So see it's a win-win!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2006


delmoi: "It's not like people didn't know that plants give off methane."

Actually, delmoi, I'm pretty sure it's exactly like people didn't know plants give off methane.

"Until the data were unveiled in this week's Nature, scientists had believed that plant-related methane formed only in oxygen-free environments, such as bogs."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2006


So, is it possible the the reforestation of North American is causing global warming?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2006


The answer is clear: we all need to smart smoking a lot more grass, immediately.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2006


So, is it possible the the reforestation of North American is causing global warming?

Not unless reforestation projects are planting grasses or are not being maintained properly by clearing the forest floor of brush and dead trees.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2006


That would give off more CO2 flo.
posted by delmoi at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2006


That would give off more CO2 flo.

Exactly. Methane traps more heat than CO2.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:04 PM on January 13, 2006


It's been known for a while that methane is given off by rice paddies and (IIRC) injured maples, though I can't find a cite for the maples right now. Googling tells me that the actual methane producer is a symbiotic microbe. I don't know if the methane from those sources is significant in the overall atmospheric scheme of things though.

Paris - has there been reforestation of North America?
posted by hattifattener at 12:37 PM on January 13, 2006


It's all a trick. They put forth this idea then those that deny that global warming is happening blame it on the grass, at which point the research is receded everyone yells "psyche, you just admitted global warming is real" ... and... well little is done to actually fix the problem
posted by edgeways at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2006


Paris - has there been reforestation of North America?

Paris is obviously referring to the National Reforestation Act of 2051.
posted by gurple at 1:15 PM on January 13, 2006


RealClimate article:
Reactions so far have been guarded, and there will undoubtedly be a scramble to check and refine the estimates of this process's importance. Once the dust settles though, the situation may not be so different to before - some emissions may turn out to have been mis-identified, this source may not be as large as these initial estimates (10-30% of total sources) suggest, or it might radically challenge our current understanding of methane's sources and sinks.
posted by stbalbach at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2006


No, I think you were thinking of Mungo, he's the fat one from Riff-Raff and the Cadillac cats.
posted by I Foody at 2:02 PM on January 13, 2006


sorry about that I thought i was typing in another window
posted by I Foody at 2:13 PM on January 13, 2006


Has there been reforestation of North America?

Only in a technical sense, due to commercial and conservational replanted forests.
The United States has the seventh largest annual loss of primary forests in the world, according to FAO. In the 2000-2005 period, the United States lost an average of 831 square miles of such lands which are sometimes termed "old-growth forests." Overall, when plantations are added to the picture, the US gained a net 614 square miles of forest per year. The FAO report suggests America's primary forests are losing ground to modified natural, seminatural, and plantation forests.

Much of the acreage growth is attributed to (often vast) tree farms owned by lumber or paper interests, which tend to plant certain varieties (e.g. fast-growing pine) disproportionately. There's a reason that two-by-fours as light as a feather are readily available, while oak ... not so much. Similarly, the type of "forest" favored in park settings is unnatural, as is the invasive growths found in drainage reserves. In Illinois, there was a big spat about a park that was, a century ago, a wetland; people wanted to maintain the "forest", when it was unnatural to begin with. The trees are being removed, replaced by marshy grasses. There's a public misperception about what a real forest is.
posted by dhartung at 10:43 PM on January 13, 2006


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