Thursday, January 12, 2006

Plants emit methane

Well this really screws things up...

Plants: An ozone culprit?
New findings suggest that plants might produce methane in situ by a hitherto unknown process, and emit quantities representing 10-30% of the earth's atmospheric methane levels. If confirmed, the results -- published in this week's issue of Nature -- will require a re-evaluation of the planet's global methane budget, and have a significant impact on many fields, from the study of past climate changes to greenhouse gas accounting.

I guess that's something they missed in the zillion years of plant biology. Ironically, photosynthesis has been receiving too much light. Methane production has gone completely overlooked.

So what does this mean?
Ultimately, the findings may lead to potential changes in the way governments manage greenhouse gases, consisting mostly of methane and carbon dioxide. For instance, some countries are trying to reduce their emissions by planting forests to absorb CO2 - but if that solution also results in more methane emissions, it will pose additional problems, according to David Lowe from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in Wellington, New Zealand, who was not a co-author.

I see, so planting trees to get rid of C02 can actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. Well, that's lovely.
"These are the findings of just one group. Now others around the world will have to make efforts to confirm these observations and to figure out the process that might be involved," said Lowe.

Something to keep in mind:
Despite the questions these findings may raise about greenhouse gases, the researchers insisted that efforts to reduce emissions should target man-made activities. "Emissions from plants are natural, they've been there long before man started to affect the atmosphere -they are not a factor in anthropogenic global change," said Röckmann. "They should be left untouched."

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