How does elevated ozone reduce methane emissions from peatlands?

Sylvia Toet, Viktoria Oliver, Phil Ineson, Sophie McLoughlin, Thorunn Helgason, Simon Peacock, Andrew W. Stott, Jeremy Barnes, Mike Ashmore

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7 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of increased tropospheric ozone (O3) pollution levels on methane (CH4) emissions from peatlands, and their underlying mechanisms, remain unclear. In this study, we exposed peatland mesocosms from a temperate wet heath dominated by the sedge Schoenus nigricans and Sphagnum papillosum to four O3 treatments in open-top chambers for 2.5years, to investigate the O3 impacts on CH4 emissions and the processes that underpin these responses. Summer CH4 emissions, were significantly reduced, by 27% over the experiment, due to summer daytime (8hday−1) O3 exposure to non-filtered air (NFA) plus 35ppb O3, but were not significantly affected by year-round, 24hday−1, exposure to NFA plus 10ppb or NFA plus 25ppb O3. There was no evidence that the reduced CH4 emissions in response to elevated summer O3 exposure were caused by reduced plant-derived carbon availability below-ground, because we found no significant effect of high summer O3 exposure on root biomass, pore water dissolved organic carbon concentrations or the contribution of recent photosynthate to CH4 emissions. Our CH4 production potential and CH4 oxidation potential measurements in the different O3 treatments could also not explain the observed CH4 emission responses to O3. However, pore water ammonium concentrations at 20cm depth were consistently reduced during the experiment by elevated summer O3 exposure, and strong positive correlations were observed between CH4 emission and pore water ammonium concentration at three peat depths over the 2.5-year study. Our results therefore imply that elevated regional O3 exposures in summer, but not the small increases in northern hemisphere annual mean background O3 concentrations predicted over this century, may lead to reduced CH4 emissions from temperate peatlands as a consequence of reductions in soil inorganic nitrogen affecting methanogenic and/or methanotrophic activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date17 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding: this work was supported by NERC (grant number NE/E015700/1) and a “grant in kind” from the NERC Life Sciences Mass Spectrometry Steering Committee. We thank Leon van den Berg for his help with field site selection, John Lambert for kind permission to sample peat at MacLeod Estate, and Cat Moody, Debbie Coldwell, Magnus Kelly and James Stafford for their field assistance; Alan Craig for technical assistance in support of the OTC facility, and Robert Hodgson and Alan Bell for maintaining the water table in the mesocosms.


  • CH4
  • mires
  • sedge
  • Sphagnum papillosum
  • nitrogen
  • 13C


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