SUMMARY: Different types of plant material decay and produce different amounts of methane. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas compared to CO2 and decomposes into CO2 in the atmosphere. This study compared methane production of various types of plants. Plant material was collected from deciduous forests, conifer forests, freshwater ecosystems and allowed to decay. Results showed that freshwater plants produced the most methane while the forest litters produced less. The reason for this was that leaves from the deciduous and conifer forests produced leachates that created a toxic environment and/or lowered pH. This directly stopped phenol oxidase from getting rid of extra phenols in the environment, making the production of methane more difficult. Researchers in this study suggested that methane production by decaying freshwater plants should be included in models of carbon cycling.
LESSON COMMENTS: Carbon cycle, greenhouse gases, and global warming are good topics to use this article for in an environmental science class. One can also tie in the relationship between decomposition and the rhizosphere.
This article can also be used in biology or chemistry classes to talk about phenols, enzyme activity, acidity, how acidity can affect enzyme activity, what toxins are, and the process of producing methane.
E. J. Emilson, M. A. Carson, K. M. Yakimovich, J. M. Gunn, N. C. Mykytczuk, N. Basiliko, and A. J. Tanentzap, “Climate-driven shifts in sediment chemistry enhance methane production in northern lakes,” Nature Communications, 2017.