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Top Story

Researchers pin down one source of a potent greenhouse gas

A study of a Lake Erie wetland suggests that scientists have vastly underestimated the number of places methane-producing microbes can survive and, as a result, today’s global climate models may be misjudging the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. The researchers describe the discovery of the first known methane-producing microbe that is active in an oxygen-rich environment. Oxygen is supposed to be toxic to such microbes, called methanogens, but the newly named Candidatus Methanothrix paradoxum thrives in it. In fact, 80 percent of the methane in the wetland in the study came from oxygenated soils. The microbe's habitat extends from the deepest parts of a wetland, which are devoid of oxygen, all the way to surface soils. More work needs to be done before researchers can determine exactly how much more methane is out there, but the microbe's habitat appears to be global.

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