Global Uptake of Atmospheric Methane by Soil From 1900 to 2100

Fabiola Murguia-Flores, Anita L Ganesan, Sandra Arndt, Edward R C Hornibrook

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Soil methanotrophy is the only biological process that removes methane (CH4) from the atmosphere. There is good agreement about the size of the global sink but great uncertainty about its interannual variability and regional responses to changes in key environmental drivers. We used the process-based methanotrophy model Methanotrophy Model (MeMo) v1.0 and output from global climate models to simulate regional and global changes in soil uptake of atmospheric CH4 from 1900 to 2100. The annual global uptake doubled from 17.1 ± 2.4 to 37.2 ± 3.3 Tg yr−1 from 1900-2015 and could increase further to 82.7 ± 4.4 Tg yr−1 by 2100 (RCP8.5), primarily due to enhanced diffusion of CH4 into soil as a result of increases in atmospheric CH4 mole fraction. We show that during the period 1980–2015 temperature became an important influence on the increasing rates of soil methanotrophy, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. In RCP-forced simulations the relative influence of temperature on changes in the uptake continues to increase, enhancing the soil sink through higher rates of methanotrophic metabolic activity, increases in the global area of active soil methanotrophy and length of active season. During the late 21st century under RCP6.0, temperature is predicted to become the dominant driver of changes in global mean soil uptake rates for the first time. Regionally, in Europe and Asia, nitrogen inputs dominate changes in soil methanotrophy, while soil moisture is the most important influence in tropical South America. These findings highlight that the soil sink could change in response to drivers other than atmospheric CH4 mole fraction.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GB006774
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number7
Early online date11 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
F Murguia‐Flores acknowledges funding from CONACyT Mexico. A. Ganesan has been funded by a UK Natural Environment Research Council Independent Research Fellowship NE/L010992/1. S Arndt acknowledges funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska‐Curie grant agreement No 643052 (C‐CASCADES project). E Hornibrook is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada via Discovery Grant RGPIN‐2018‐04743.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • attribution
  • climate change
  • methanotrophy
  • methane
  • soil


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