Atmospheric constraints on global emissions of methane from plants
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We investigate whether a recently proposed large source of CH4 from vegetation can be reconciled with atmospheric measurements. Atmospheric transport model simulations with and without vegetation emissions are compared with background CH4, delta C-13-CH4 and satellite measurements. For present - day CH4 we derive an upper limit to the newly discovered source of 125 Tg CH4 yr(-1). Analysis of preindustrial CH4, however, points to 85 Tg CH4 yr(-1) as a more plausible limit. Model calculations with and without vegetation emissions show strikingly similar results at background surface monitoring sites, indicating that these measurements are rather insensitive to CH4 from plants. Simulations with 125 Tg CH4 yr(-1) vegetation emissions can explain up to 50% of the previously reported unexpectedly high CH4 column abundances over tropical forests observed by SCIAMACHY. Our results confirm the potential importance of vegetation emissions, and call for further research.