Plants are major methane producers, new research says

Methane: it’s not just from cow farts anymore. Apparently, ordinary plants emit significant amounts of the potent greenhouse gas. Clearly, all cows and plants must be killed. For the health of the planet! Ahem. Writing in Nature, German researchers suggest that the never-before-noted phenomenon — which they stumbled on almost accidentally — could account for 10 to 30 percent of the world’s methane emissions. That might confound the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, which allow countries and companies to offset greenhouse-gas emissions by funding new forest planting and reforestation. There may already be some on-the-ground corroboration: Soon-to-be-released research reports high and heretofore unexplained levels of methane in the Brazilian Amazon. But that study’s author, U.S. Forest Service researcher Michael Keller, is cautious about what it all means. “Until we know how this process works,” says Keller, “it is really unwise to come to any conclusions.”