Jan
18
2006

Trees: a major source of pollution?

Scientists at the Max Plank Institute in Germany have discovered that living trees are a major source of methane in the Earth's atmosphere. Methane is a major "greenhouse gas," implicated in global warming.


Trees and sun: Trees and sun

Before this study, scientists thought plants only released small amounts of methane, and then only when they decomposed (as in swamps). The new research shows that plants release methane throughout their lives, and in large amounts—up to 30% or more of the planet's total methane production may come from plants.

This forces us to re-think environmental efforts. Strategies for dealing with climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocols, often call for planting more trees. And it's true that trees do take a lot of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere—the most prevalent greenhouse gas. But now it turns out trees also release methane, so their benefit is not quite as great as once thought.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Tyler McNab's picture
Tyler McNab says:

So is it good or bad to have alot of trees??? This bothers me.

posted on Tue, 01/31/2006 - 3:08pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

What we're learning is that it's not a simple matter of "good" or "bad." Trees do a lot of things that are very important and necessary. But now we see there are also side-effects. Life on Earth, and the way it interacts with the environment, is turning out to be pretty complicated.

The bottom line, according to the article cited, is that trees still do more good than harm. But if we plan to use trees in a global climate strategy, we need to take their methane production into account.

posted on Wed, 02/01/2006 - 10:09am

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