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Department of Plant Sciences

Plants can make lakes gassy

Lakes release gas too.  And plants may play a key role in the process.

The newest paper from the Tanentzap group shows that the vegetation in and around lakes can influence how much of the potent greenhouse gas methane is produced by microbes.  Methane production from lakes is important because it can account for up to 16% of the total produced by natural ecosystems, and methane is at least 25-times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Using controlled lab experiments, the research shows that methane production can vary by at least 400-times because of differences in sediment chemistry from plant litterfall.  Polyphenolics - natural chemicals that occur more in some plants than others, such as large aquatics - are specifically associated with lower methane production and fewer methane-producing microbes.  As aquatic plants are predicted to migrate northwards in the near future with a warmer climate, they will encounter more suitable lakeside habitat and pose a risk that methane production from northern lakes may double.

Emilson EJS, Carson MA, Yakimovich KM, Osterholz H, Dittmar T, Gunn JM, Mykytczuk NCS, Basiliko N, Tanentzap AJ. (2018) Climate-driven shifts in sediment chemistry enhance methane production in northern lakes. Nature Communications.