Regular Article

Plant and Soil

, Volume 326, Issue 1, pp 147-158

First online:

Plant species from mesotrophic wetlands cause relatively high methane emissions from peat soil

  • Albert KoelbenerAffiliated withInstitute of Integrative Biology, Plant Ecology, ETH Zurich Email author 
  • , Lena StrömAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Geography and Ecosystems Analysis, GeoBiosphere Science Centre, Lund University
  • , Peter J. EdwardsAffiliated withInstitute of Integrative Biology, Plant Ecology, ETH Zurich
  • , Harry Olde VenterinkAffiliated withInstitute of Integrative Biology, Plant Ecology, ETH Zurich

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Plants can influence methane emissions from wetland ecosystems by altering its production, consumption and transport in the soil. The aim of this study was to investigate how eight vascular plant species from mesotrophic to eutrophic wetlands vary in their influence on CH4 emissions from peat cores, under low and high N supply. Additionally, we measured the production of low-molecular-weight organic acids (LOA) by the same species (also at low and high N supply), because LOA form a substrate for methanogenesis. There were considerable differences among species in their effects upon rates of CH4 emission. Six of the species (Eriophorum latifolium Hoppe, Potentilla palustris (L.) Scop., Anthoxanthum odoratum (L.) s. str., Carex rostrata Stokes, Carex elata All., Carex acutiformis Ehrh.) increased CH4 emissions up to five times compared to control peat cores without plants, whereas two species (Phalaris arundinacea L., Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.) had no effect. There was a weak negative correlation between plant biomass and CH4 emission. N addition had no significant general effect upon CH4 emission. LOA production varied considerably among species, and tended to be highest for species from mesotrophic habitats. LOA production was stimulated by N addition. We conclude that some species from mesotrophic wetlands tend to cause higher CH4 emissions than species from eutrophic wetlands. This pattern, which contradicts what is often mentioned in literature, may be explained by the higher LOA production rates of species adapted to less productive habitats.


Adaptation Biomass Ecological traits Greenhouse gas Nitrogen Organic acids Peat Root exudation Vascular plants