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According to a new study, trees are the most significant methane “vents” in wetland areas.

Using tree systems as a model, researchers at Birmingham University discovered that the vast majority of methane gas emitted from Amazon wetlands regions is vented into the atmosphere, with significant emissions occurring even when the ground is not flooded.

The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘Philosophical Transactions A’, which is published by the Royal Society.

In this study, the researchers discovered that trees growing on floodplains in the Amazon basin emit significantly more methane than soil or surface water, and that this occurs in both wet and dry conditions.

Methane is the most important greenhouse gas, and wetlands account for a significant amount of the methane in our atmosphere. Many studies are being conducted to determine exactly how much methane is released through this pathway, but models typically assume that the gas is only produced when the ground has been completely flooded and submerged.

Normally, methane would be consumed by the soil on its way to the surface of a wetland. However, the researchers believe that tree roots could be acting as a transport for methane, transporting it up to the surface where it can be released into the atmosphere through the tree trunks and into the atmosphere.

Despite the that methane is produced in soil and water that is several meters below ground level, it is still capable of escaping through this route.

Thus, existing models may be significantly underestimating the likely extent of in wetland such as the Amazon basin, according to this hypothesis.

In order to the theory to the test, the team collected data from three plots on the floodplains of three major rivers in the central Amazon basin, which they then analyzed. In order to capture the response of the trees to water levels associated with the annual flood, the same trees were monitored at each plot four times over the course of the year. Using a portable analyzer, were measured and then calculations were performed in order to scale the findings up to cover the entire Amazon basin.

Overall, the team that trees are responsible for nearly half of global tropical wetland , with the unexpected result that trees are also important for emissions during times when the floodplain water table is below the surface of the soil, as discovered by the team.

‘The lead author, Professor Vincent Gauci, from the University of Birmingham’s of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (as well as the Birmingham of Forest Research), said: ‘The study was a collaborative effort “In our findings, we demonstrate that current global emissions estimates are an important component of the picture. It is now necessary to develop models and methods that take into account the significant role that trees in the emission of methane from wetlands.”

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