Methane, microbes and models: fundamental understanding of the soil methane cycle for future predictions

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Abstract

Methane is an important greenhouse gas and microbes in the environment play major roles in both global methane emissions and terrestrial sinks. However, a full mechanistic understanding of the response of the methane cycle to global change is lacking. Recent studies suggest that a number of biological and environmental processes can influence the net flux of methane from soils to the atmosphere but the magnitude and direction of their impact are still debated. Here, we synthesize recent knowledge on soil microbial and biogeochemical process and the impacts of climate change factors on the soil methane cycle. We focus on (i) identification of the source and magnitude of methane flux and the global factors that may change the flux rate and magnitude in the future, (ii) the microbial communities responsible for methane production and terrestrial sinks, and (iii) how they will respond to future climatic scenarios and the consequences for feedback responses at a global scale. We also identify the research gaps in each of the topics identified above, provide evidence which can be used to demonstrate microbial regulation of methane cycle and suggest that incorporation of microbial data from emerging -omic technologies could be harnessed to increase the predictive power of simulation models.

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