microbes making tree methane 'farts' in ghost forests are in the soils, study shows
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A new study from North Carolina State University shows that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is largely generated in the soils below standing dead trees in so-called ghost forests, or coastal forests that are being killed off by rising sea levels. 

This escaping methane gas, known colloquially as ghost forest tree “farts,” is actually generated by different tiny microorganisms. Researchers wanted to know if different communities of microbes are making methane gas inside the soils or in the dead trees, which are also known as snags. They found that although the methane gas is generated in the soils, the trees act like filtering straws as the gas rises through the wood. Microbes in the wood further chemically alter and consume the gas as it rises.

“We’re tracing where the methane is originally coming from, and what we’re finding is that it’s coming from the soils, and as it moves through the tree, it’s changing as well,” said Marcelo Ardón, associate professor of forestry and environmental resources at North Carolina State University. “The methane is being processed as it moves through those snags.”

As a visual sign of climate change, ghost forests are expected to become more common along the coast in the Southeast due to rising sea levels. In a previous study, Ardón and colleagues found that snags are important to calculating greenhouse gas emissions from ghost forests, and ignoring them could discount some of the emissions generated in a transitioning forest. In their new study, the researchers wanted to understand the methane’s source.

To answer that question, the researchers analyzed methane gas samples from standing dead trees in ghost forests across five sites on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula on the North Carolina coast. They measured concentrations of the gas inside the trees, in the soils and in the water in the soil. They also tracked chemical signatures left by the microbes that produce and use methane gas. Methane is made of two elements—hydrogen and carbon—and each of these elements can have a different molecular weight from other atoms of the same type depending on the number of neutrons in their nuclei. Those variations in the elements are called isotopes, and since they’re not radioactive, they’re called stable isotopes. Researchers analyzed the amounts and types of stable isotopes of each element to help them track methane.

“The stable isotope signature is like a fingerprint you can follow,” said the study’s first author Melinda Martinez, a former graduate student at NC State, and now a postdoctoral scholar at the U.S. Geological Survey. “In our previous work, we saw that methane was coming out of the trees. Where is it coming from? Is it coming from the soil, produced by microbes, or within the tree itself as it decomposes?”

They found methane concentrations generally decreased the higher they got from the ground in the dead trees. They also saw evidence of a change in ratios between lighter and heavier isotopes in both carbon and hydrogen from the water in the ground to the soils to the snags.

Lastly, they took samples from the trees and placed them in vials to see if they were producing any methane when isolated in an oxygen-free environment, or if any methane was used in an oxygen-rich vial. They found very little methane was produced or consumed in the vials.

“Only five out of 100 vial samples produced any significant results, which provides further evidence that the methane being emitted from standing dead trees originated in the soil,” Martinez said.

The findings just address one greenhouse gas, but researchers say it’s important because understanding methane fluxes are significant for understanding the environmental impact of the forest-to-ghost forest transition. Methane has a higher warming potential than carbon dioxide, researchers said.

“It’s important to be able to understand how methane is moving through the ecosystem,” Martinez said. “These ghost forest regions are temporary ecosystems; they will become marshes. But even during the transient state, we want to know how ghost forests produce and move this greenhouse gas.”

The study was published online in Frontiers in Environmental Science. More information: Melinda Martinez et al, Identifying Sources and Oxidation of Methane in Standing Dead Trees in Freshwater Forested Wetlands, Frontiers in Environmental Science (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2021.737379

Melinda Martinez et al, Drivers of greenhouse gas emissions from standing dead trees in ghost forests, Biogeochemistry (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s10533-021-00797-5

TECH NEWS RELATED

Chipmakers focus on heat dissipation in manufacturing process upgrades

High heat dissipation and other thermal management technologies are increasingly required for both front- and back-end chipmaking processes by companies engaged in the automotive, HPC, industrial and network chip segments, according to industry sources. Materials demand for manufacturing processes with enhanced heat dissipation performance has been growing robustly, said the ...

View more: Chipmakers focus on heat dissipation in manufacturing process upgrades

TSMC completes cleanroom construction at R&D center in Japan

An opening ceremony has been held recently at TSMC’s 3DIC R&D center in Japan to mark the completion of cleanroom construction at the facility, according to the Taiwan-based foundry. Located in the Tsukuba Center of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), TSMC’s R&D center in Japan ...

View more: TSMC completes cleanroom construction at R&D center in Japan

Apple M2 chip: Everything you need to know

Source: Apple At this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the second generation of its Apple silicon processor for the Mac: the M2 chip. Along with the announcement, the company revealed that the redesigned MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro would be the first Macs to feature the ...

View more: Apple M2 chip: Everything you need to know

Apple Mixed Reality Headset: M2 Chip and 16GB RAM, For 2022?

Apple got new reports for its mixed reality headset from famous industry speculators, with claims that it would have the M2 chip and a 16 GB memory for its internal parts. The new specs are massive, and it would be more significant compared to what the 2022 MacBook Air will ...

View more: Apple Mixed Reality Headset: M2 Chip and 16GB RAM, For 2022?

Marvel already confirmed Doctor Doom in the MCU, but we almost missed it

We’re nowhere near a Fantastic Four cast and release date announcement, especially considering that Marvel’s search for a new director might take some time. But we’re already getting the first MCU Fantastic Four teasers. We saw Mister Fantastic (John Krasinski) in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a ...

View more: Marvel already confirmed Doctor Doom in the MCU, but we almost missed it

NASA Introduces 2022 Class of Flight Directors – Meet the 7 New Additions to the Team

Overall view of the space station flight control room in the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center as flight controllers support rendezvous and docking operations of the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft. Credit: NASA NASA has selected seven new additions to the team of flight directors to oversee operations of the ...

View more: NASA Introduces 2022 Class of Flight Directors – Meet the 7 New Additions to the Team

Industry minister to visit Czech Republic, Poland for nuclear energy sales

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang will visit the Czech Republic and Poland this week to support local firms in winning contracts for building new power plants there, his office said Monday. Lee is scheduled to make a two-day trip to the Czech Republic from ...

View more: Industry minister to visit Czech Republic, Poland for nuclear energy sales

States race to woo Foxconn as EV, Chip fab plan take shape

ETtech Foxconn, the largest and globally most trusted electronics manufacturer in the world and 22nd in the list of Fortune 500 companies is expanding into Semiconductor Manufacturing and is exploring the South Asian market for its next venture to build for the world. A slew of Indian states are wooing ...

View more: States race to woo Foxconn as EV, Chip fab plan take shape

Payments Council seeks government help post RBI’s fintech order

TCS eyes non-metro offices to move closer to tech talent

Influencers cry foul over delayed pay at Trell; 100 more staff leave firm amid troubles

Reliance, PremjiInvest, CP Group, Swiggy look to bid for Metro India unit

COVID-19 Positive Patients at Far Higher Risk of Developing Serious Neurodegenerative Disorders

Tips For Hiring An IT Expert

China questions the safety of open source code amid sanctions and tech dependency risks, but can it build a viable alternative?

All for pride, pride for all Pride Month in Thailand saw both advocates and opportunists waving rainbow flags, while a bill that can pave the way for same-sex marriage moved forward

Energetic eco An upgraded Almera provides a ride that belies its diminutive displacement

Let Your Mind Control the Computer

Flu Vaccination Linked to 40% Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Maserati looks to the heavens with new convertible

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News