Forests and the Methane Cycle Workshop

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During the first week of June a workshop took place covering the topic of “Forests and Methane Cycling.”  The meeting was jointly organised by MethaneNet and Mari Pihlatie of the University of Helsinki, and was held on the idyllic banks of Lake Kuivajärvi at Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station in Finland.  The aim of the event was to synthesise current knowledge on forest methane cycling from various ecoregions, and at different spatial and temporal scales.

A general introduction set the scene for the workshop, but also raised important questions concerning methods for upscaling fluxes, and the appropriateness of different metrics in reporting data.  After this it was on to individual presentations, beginning with a boreal focus.  Speakers discussed both micrometeorological and chamber approaches to measuring methane in northern coniferous forests, which allow complex methane dynamics to be elucidated.  For example, at Hyytiälä there is evidence that suggests the forest floor is a methane sink, whilst the trees act as a small source; similar results from trees have been reported elsewhere.  This introduced the question: “are trees the missing source of methane in boreal forests?”

For the afternoon session, the science switched from the boreal zone to the tropics.  It was noted that carbon cycling in tropical wetlands is still poorly understood.  Furthermore, the possibility was presented that unquantified methane emissions from tree stems might be the reason for the regional discrepancy between bottom-up and top-down estimates of atmospheric methane sources.  The mediating role of tree physiology on greenhouse gas emissions was also broached.

Day 2 of the workshop was a more interactive affair, with conversations about knowledge gaps and the future direction of forest methane research.  There was time for two field trips, however.  The first was to SMEAR II; an atmospheric research facility where measurements of greenhouse gases from soil and trees are ongoing using chamber methods.  Greenhouse gases are also measured using micrometeorological methods on a 124 m tower.  Our second trip was to the scenic Siikaneva peatland, where greenhouse gases are measured using chamber and eddy covariance methods.

The workshop organizer Dr Mari Pihlatie of the University of Helsinki said “this workshop was an eye opener to see how big uncertainties we still have in understanding the role of trees in methane dynamics in forest ecosystems. Also, the meeting gave an excellent opportunity to initialize collaboration between research groups and disciplines to work towards a comprehensive understanding of the methane cycling in forest ecosystems.” Dr Vincent Gauci of MethaneNet added: “the workshop highlighted that we are at a relatively early stage of developing fundamental knowledge of how forested wetlands and upland ecosystems participate in the methane cycle.  The future of this field of research will have important implications for characterisation and modelling of ecosystem sources of this gas under a range of global change scenarios.”

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American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, 15-19 December 2014, San Francisco

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5th July 2014.

We invite abstract submissions to Natural Wetlands and Open Waters in the Global Methane Cycle:

https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm14/webprogrampreliminary/Session2980.html

Abstract deadline: 6 August 2014

Description: Natural wetlands and open waters (lakes, ponds, streams, reservoirs) are major, climate-sensitive methane (CH4) sources. Uncertainties in CH4 dynamics from these landscapes derive from heterogeneity in vegetation, microtopography, permafrost, hydrology, and CH4 production and emission. Sign and magnitude of responses of wetland and open-water distributions and their emissions under warming climate are uncertain. Understanding and modeling distributions and CH4 dynamics of these heterogenous ecosystems is crucial to predicting biogeochemical and distributional dynamics under past, present and future climates.

We invite studies on: global-to-regional modeling of CHdynamics in wetlands and open waters; modeling of wetland and open-water distributions; airborne and space-borne assessment of CHemissions; role of wetlands and/or water bodies in the global CHcycle under past and future climates; synthesis studies of CHfluxes and controlling variables; remote sensing of hydrologic dynamics and vegetation characterization in wetlands and open waters; process studies of CHproduction, oxidation and emission.

Conveners:

Martin Wik, Stockholm University, Dept. of Geological Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden

Elaine Matthews, NASA, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, US

Torsten Sachs, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany

Ruth Varner, University of New Hampshire, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, Durham, US

Methane in the Earth System Symposium

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9th May 2014.

The Cambridge Centre for Climate Science (CCfCS) is holding an afternoon symposium on the topic of methane in the Earth system.

Time: Thursday 5 June, 2-5pm talks, followed by a poster and networking reception.

Location: MR2, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge. Directions can be found at:

http://www.cms.cam.ac.uk/visiting/

Confirmed speakers are: Prof John Burrows (University of Bremen), Dr Nicola Gedney (UK Met Office), Prof Euan Nisbet (Royal Holloway University of London), Dr Matthew Rigby (University of Bristol).

Titles and abstracts to follow.

This meeting is open to all, and is supported by MethaneNet. If you are an early career researcher or student and wish to attend from outside Cambridge, please contact michelle.cain@atm.ch.cam.ac.uk for details of travel funds from MethaneNet.

If you wish to bring a poster to display during the networking and poster reception, please email michelle.cain@atm.ch.cam.ac.uk in advance.

For more details about CCfCS, see http://www.climatescience.cam.ac.uk or contact michelle.cain@atm.ch.cam.ac.uk.

Methane Hack Meeting Report

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3rd February 2012. The global methane cycle held its breath on 1st December as some of the world’s leading experts on methane emissions and geo-engineering gathered at the Geological Society to discuss strategies for ‘hacking’ into the system and reducing the atmospheric concentration of this potent greenhouse gas.

The ‘Methane Hack’ discussion meeting, sponsored by MethaneNet, was organised by Vincent Gauci and Gail Riekie of the Open University.

Compared to carbon dioxide, the average methane molecule has a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere and herein lies the opportunity. Speaker after speaker emphasised the point that reducing the amount of methane in the atmosphere represents a ‘quick hit’, a means of stabilising the climate in the near term whilst buying time to figure out how to solve the carbon dioxide problem – in effect, the climate crisis equivalent of applying a tourniquet until the surgeon arrives.

Ideas for mitigating methane emissions came thick and fast. Anthropogenic point sources of methane, e.g. coal mines, gas pipelines and landfill sites, were recognised to be easier to tackle than diffuse natural sources such as boreal and tropical wetlands.  The theoretical basis of direct capture of methane from the atmosphere was presented, as were the practicalities of extracting methane from coal mine ventilation air and, perhaps more far-fetched, deploying sheeting on the Arctic sea-bed to gather up methane from seep areas. Science can suggest ways of minimising the methane emitted by cattle and from rice paddies, but these methods will be adopted only when they also make practical and economic sense to the farmers involved. Keynote speaker David Reay of the University of Edinburgh reviewed the microbial basis of the global methane flux and observed that for methane mitigation policies to be effective, “we need to understand humans as well as we understand methanogens.”

The meeting concluded with pleas for greater transparency in methane emissions projections, for more methane monitoring stations (particularly in the southern hemisphere), and above all for methane’s potentially pivotal role as a short-term climate fix to be more widely recognised by climate scientists and policy makers alike.

The chair of the meeting, Dr Vincent Gauci says “It’s clear from this meeting that there is enormous potential for quick climate gains from mitigating methane emissions – the ingenuity on display in these talks is impressive. The challenge now lies in introducing these strategies effectively and for that to happen, we need help from social scientists, economists and policy makers as well as the scientists and engineers who are coming up with the solutions.”

Seawater Deoxygenation Meeting

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15th April 2011.

A Royal Society workshop on the topic of seawater deoxygenation, organised and led by Anthony Cohen and Neil Edwards (both at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Open University), took place at Chicheley Hall, the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, on 11-12 April. The meeting had additional financial support from MethaneNet and The Open University

Twenty international experts in the field gathered to review current knowledge and to exchange ideas on the oxygen status of oceans and coastal waters in times past, present and future.  The context of the meeting is the evidence that seawater deoxygenation is currently increasing, amid concerns about the impact of this increase on ecosystem services provided by the world’s oceans.

When asked to consider the key questions and uncertainties facing researchers in this field, the participants drew up a long and diverse list of issues. These included the relationships between nutrient availability, oxygen, other biogeochemical cycles and feedback processes, the difficulty of representing the oxygen state in models, the lack of understanding of the trigger mechanisms and the reasons for apparent slow state of recovery from anoxia. The palaeo-community was well represented at the meeting and emphasised the contribution provided by studies of past Oceanic Anoxic Events, in which large-scale destabilisation of methane hydrate has been implicated.

The interaction between seawater oxygen and the present day methane cycle was also noted as an issue.  Whilst it was not the focus of attention at this meeting, the question of how changes in the oxygen status of seawater might affect methane flux from the oceans is one that will concern many scientists seeking to understand and predict greenhouse gas emissions.