Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 12, pp 1714–1727 | Cite as

Climate tipping-point potential and paradoxical production of methane in a changing ocean

  • Hongyue DangEmail author
  • Jia Li


The global warming potential of methane (CH4) is about 30 times stronger than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a century timescale. Methane emission is hypothesized to have contributed to global climate change events and mass extinctions during Earth’s history. Therefore, the study of CH4 production processes is critically important to the understanding of global climate change. It has been a dogma that biogenic CH4 detectable in the oceans originates exclusively from the anaerobic metabolic activity of methanogenic archaea in hypoxic and anoxic environments, despite reports that many oxic surface and near-surface waters of the world’s oceans are CH4-supersaturated, thereby rendering net sea-to-air emissions of CH4. The phenomenon of CH4 production in oxic marine waters is referred to as the “ocean methane paradox”. Although still not totally resolved, recent studies have generated several hypotheses regarding the sources of CH4 production in oxic seawater. This review will summarize our current understanding of the importance of CH4 in the global climate and analyze the biological processes and their underpinning mechanisms that lead to the production of CH4 in oxic seawater environments. We will also tentatively explore the relationships of these microbial metabolic processes with global changes in climate and environment.


Ocean methane paradox Gas hydrate Marine particles Methylphosphonate DSMP Global warming Ocean deoxygenation Ocean acidification 


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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFA0601303), the Chinese State Oceanic Administration (SOA) (Grant No. GASI-03-01-02-05), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41676122, 91328209 & 91428308), and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (Grant Nos. CNOOC-KJ125FZDXM00TJ001-2014 & CNOOC-KJ125FZDXM00ZJ001-2014).


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© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, Institute of Marine Microbes and Ecospheres, College of Ocean and Earth SciencesXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  2. 2.Tianjin Branch of China National Offshore Oil Corporation LtdTianjinChina

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