Amazon floodplain trees are the major source of methane emission

The trees produce even a bigger amount of methane than all the oceans combined

Amazon floodplain trees

A recent study published in the Nature Magazine reveled that "the wetlands are the largest global source of atmospheric methane (CH), a potent greenhouse gas". The research assured that the trees produce up to 20 million tons of methane each year. These findings demonstrate that these trees, located in the wetlands, generate even more methane than all the oceans together -18 million tons of methane per year-. Thus, they produce a similar amount of the Arctic tundra wetlands -between 16 and 27 million tons of methane per year-.

Scientists from the United Kingdom Open University, the IPEN from Sao Paulo, the University Federal of Rio de Janeiro, the University of Leeds, University of Linköping, U of British Columbia and some other institutions tracked the methane emissions from 2.300 trees located in the near the Amazon, Tapajos and Solimoes rivers.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more harmful than the CO2 and it captures 34 times more heat

The researchers used special cameras that capture the methane production of the trunks of the trees. Also, they measure the methane emission from the airplanes that flight across the area. According to the researchers, the "methane fluxes from Amazon tree stems were up to 200 times larger than emissions reported for temperate wet forests and tropical peat swamp forests, representing the largest non-ebullitive wetland fluxes observed". They found that larger methane emissions come from trees adapted to permanent or seasonal inundation. The study main author, Luciana Vanni Gatti, said to SciDevNet that "these trees act as chimneys, funneling the methane produced in the submerged soil into the atmosphere".

However, the research suggest that the Amazon wetlands trees may be responding to environmental change, such as the building of dams across the Amazon River basin. The 140 dams all across the Amazon River may be affecting the methane production. Experts claimed that the methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more harmful than the CO2. According to SciDevNet, it captures 34 times more heat than Carbon Dioxide. Despite the big methane amount production, the study stated that the methane emitted by the Amazon trees is just half to the one emitted by humans in terms of landfills, meat industry, and burning fossil fuels.

The findings may allow the scientific community to be more aware of the role of the Amazon forests in the fight against Climate Change. Vincent Gauci, lead investigator of the research, explained to that "we are not, in any way, saying that trees are bad for the environment- this is how natural forests function. We now have a fuller picture of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions and this could help to inform how environmental change can have a knock on effect on the tropical wetland methane source". 

Many areas of the Amazon River become flooded forest for a large part of the year, reaching up to 10 meters of the trunk. These conditions help the methane production and emissions.

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez

Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza

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