Methane emissions from tank bromeliads in neotropical forests

Abstract

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas1. Methane concentrations above neotropical forests—the tropical forests found in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean—are high according to space-borne observations. However, the source of the methane is uncertain2,3. Here, we measure methane fluxes from tank bromeliads—a common group of herbaceous plants in neotropical forests that collect water in tank-like structures—using vented static chambers. We sampled 167 bromeliads in the Ecuadorian Andes, and found that all of them emitted methane. We found a diverse community of methane-producing archaea within the water-containing tanks, suggesting that the tanks served as the source of the methane. Indeed, tank water was supersaturated with methane, and 13C-labelled methane added to tank water was emitted though the leaves. We suggest that the bromeliad tanks form a wetland environment conducive to methane production. In conjunction with other wetlands hidden beneath the copy surface, bromeliads may help to explain the inexplicably high methane levels observed over neotropical forests.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Three functional types of bromeliad.
Figure 2: Methane emissions from the three functional types of bromeliad in relation to bromeliad tank diameters.

References

  1. 1

    Shindell, D. T. et al. Improved attribution of climate forcing to emissions. Science 326, 716–718 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Frankenberg, C. et al. Tropical methane emissions: A revised view from SCIAMACHY onboard ENVISAT. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, doi:10.1029/2008GL034300 (2008).

  3. 3

    do Carmo, J. B., Keller, M., Dias, J. D., de Camargo, P. B. & Crill, P. A source of methane from upland forests in the Brazilian Amazon. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, doi:10.1029/2005GL025436 (2006).

  4. 4

    Keppler, F., Hamilton, J. T. G., Brass, M. & Rockmann, T. Methane emissions from terrestrial plants under aerobic conditions. Nature 439, 187–191 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Keppler, F. Aerobic methane formation in plants. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 73, A641–A641 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Prather, M. et al. in Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds Houghton, J. T. et al.) (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Conrad, R. The global methane cycle: Recent advances in understanding the microbial processes involved [Minireview]. Environ. Microbiol. Rep. 1, 285–292 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Melack, J. M. & Hess, L. L. in Amazonian Floodplain Forests: Ecophysiology, Ecology, Biodiversity and Sustainable Management (eds Junk, W. J. &Piedade, M.) (Springer, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Megonigal, J. P. & Guenther, A. B. Methane emissions from upland forest soils and vegetation. Tree Physiol. 28, 491–498 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Keppler, F. et al. Methoxyl groups of plant pectin as a precursor of atmospheric methane: Evidence from deuterium labelling studies. New Phytol. 178, 808–814 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Conrad, R., Klose, M., Noll, M., Kemnitz, D. & Bodelier, P. L. E. Soil type links microbial colonization of rice roots to methane emission. Glob. Change Biol. 14, 657–669 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Conrad, R., Klose, M., Claus, P. & Enrich-Prast, A. Methanogenic pathway, 13C isotope fractionation, and archaeal community composition in the sediment of two clearwater lakes of Amazonia. Limnol. Oceanogr. 55, 689–702 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Armstrong, W. Aeration in higher plants. Adv. Bot. Res. 7, 225–332 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Grosse, W., Buchel, H. B. & Tiebel, H. Pressurized ventilation in wetland plants. Aquat. Bot. 39, 89–98 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Schütz, H., Schröder, P. & Rennenberg, H. in Trace Gas Emissions by Plants (eds Sharkey, T. D., Holland, E. A. & Mooney, H. A.) (Academic Press, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Benzing, D. H. Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Benzing, D. H., Givnish, T. J. & Bermudes, D. Absorptive trichomes in Brochinia reducta (Bromeliaceae) and their evolutionary and systematic significance. Syst. Bot. 10, 81–91 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Pierce, S., Maxwell, K., Griffiths, H. & Winter, K. Hydrophobic trichome layers and epicuticular wax powders in Bromeliaceae. Am. J. Bot. 88, 1371–1389 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Tomlinson, P. B. Anatomy of the Monocotyledons. III. Commelinales—Zingiberales (Clarendon Press, 1969).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Sugden, A. M. & Robins, R. J. Aspects of the ecology of vascular epiphytes in Colombian cloud forests.1. Distribution of the epiphytic flora. Biotropica 11, 173–188 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Dutaur, L. & Verchot, L. V. A global inventory of the soil CH4 sink. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 21, 9 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Purbopuspito, J., Veldkamp, E., Brumme, R. & Murdiyarso, D. Trace gas fluxes and nitrogen cycling along an elevation sequence of tropical montane forests in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 20, 11 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Gragson, T. L. Fishing the waters of amazonia—native subsistence economies in a tropical rain-forest. Am. Anthropol. 94, 428–440 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Nisbet, R. E. R. et al. Emission of methane from plants. Proc. R. Soc. B 276, 1347–1354 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Kitching, R. L. Food Webs and Container Habitats (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Loftfield, N., Flessa, H., Augustin, J. & Beese, F. Automated gas chromatographic system for rapid analysis of the atmospheric trace gases methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. J. Environ. Qual. 26, 560–564 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Wu, X. L., Friedrich, M. W. & Conrad, R. Diversity and ubiquity of thermophilic methanogenic archaea in temperate anoxic soils. Environ. Microbiol. 8, 394–404 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank R. Samaniego, R. Arias, A. Macas and F. Cuenca for excellent field and laboratory assistance. M. Richter, T. Peters and R. Rollenbeck provided the climate data. We especially thank P. Claus from the Max-Planck-Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology for GC-C-IRMS analysis. M. Schwertfeger from the Botanical Garden in Göttingen University kindly provided tank bromeliads for the tracer experiment. This study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Ve219/8-1, Gr1588/10) as part of subprojects A2.4 and A2.5 of the research unit ‘Biodiversity and sustainable management of a megadiverse mountain ecosystem in southern Ecuador’ (FOR 816).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

G.O.M. and F.A.W. contributed equally to the manuscript. They established project design, conducted field work, analysed data and wrote major portions of the manuscript. C.S. directed the statistical analyses and contributed significantly to the manuscript. R.C. and M.K. determined the methanogenic archaea community. R.C. supervised G.O.M. on the methanogen analysis and wrote parts of the manuscript. E.V. was the principal investigator (PI), main supervisor of G.O.M., and wrote parts of the manuscript. M.D.C. contributed significantly to the data analysis and review of the manuscript. H.F. was a co-PI, second supervisor of G.O.M., and supervised experimental field work. K.W. contributed to the method development and assisted G.O.M. and F.A.W. during field work. S.R.G. was a co-PI. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edzo Veldkamp.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 718 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Martinson, G., Werner, F., Scherber, C. et al. Methane emissions from tank bromeliads in neotropical forests. Nature Geosci 3, 766–769 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo980

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing