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Patrick Megonigal, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Research
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
“Methane Production and Emissions in Trees and Forests”
Abstract: Forest ecosystems are important to managing global climate change because they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood. Scientists have just recently learned that forests are also important sources and sinks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that accounts for 18% of global warming. Methane is emitted by both living and dead trees but it is not clear were the methane is made. Methane may be produced by microbes in soils and transported through trees; it may be produced by microbes inside the trees themselves; or it may be produced by sunlight striking trees in the absence of microbes. I have been studying methane emissions from trees over the past decade. I will review the state of the science on the production, consumption, transport, and emission of methane by living and dead trees, how emissions vary in space and time across forest gradients of soil moisture, and what the fact that trees emit methane means for the role of forests as global carbon sinks.
Bio: Pat Megonigal is Associate Director of Research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. He received BS and MS degrees from Old Dominion University, and a PhD from Duke University. Dr. Megonigal is an ecosystem ecologist with research interests in carbon and greenhouse gas cycling in wetlands and forests, particularly as they relate to global change. As Lead Investigator of the Smithsonian’s Global Change Research wetland, Dr. Megonigal directs long-term research programs focused on the stability of tidal wetlands faced with accelerated sea level rise, as Director of the Coastal Carbon Research Coordination Network he is organizing a global research community to advance the pace of discovery in coastal wetland carbon research and application. Pat Megonigal has authored over 120 peer-reviewed publications. He is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and Society of Wetland Scientists. He received a SSSA Presidential Citation, the Smithsonian Institution Secretary’s Research Prize, the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Merit Award. https://serc.si.edu/labs/biogeochemistry