Results from the study contrast with previous scientific research that had suggested that plants were responsible for producing large amounts of the greenhouse gas.
To reach their conclusions, scientists created artificial leaves made from plant pectin and measured the methane produced when the leaves were exposed to sunlight.
They combined their results with satellite data on the leaf coverage of the Earth’s surface, ozone in the atmosphere, cloud cover, and temperature.
The research, carried out in collaboration with the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and Forest Research, and is published in the journal New Phytologist.
Our results show that plant leaves do give rise to some methane, but only a very small amount ? this is a welcome result as it allays fears that forestry and agriculture were contributing unduly to global warming.