Natural methyl bromide and methyl chloride emissions from coastal salt marshes

Rhew, RC, Miller BR, Weiss RF.  2000.  Natural methyl bromide and methyl chloride emissions from coastal salt marshes. Nature. 403:292-295.

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biosynthesis, flux, halomethanes, higher-plants, methane


Atmospheric methyl bromide (CH3Br) and methyl chloride (CH3Cl), compounds that are involved in stratospheric ozone depletion, originate from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Current estimates of CH3Br and CH3Cl emissions from oceanic sources, terrestrial plants and fungi, biomass burning and anthropogenic inputs do not balance their losses owing to oxidation by hydroxyl radicals, oceanic degradation, and consumption in soils, suggesting that additional natural terrestrial sources may be important(1). Here we show that CH3Br and CH3Cl are released to the atmosphere from all vegetation zones of two coastal salt marshes. We see very large fluxes of CH3Br and CH3Cl per unit area: up to 42 and 570 mu mol m(-2) d(-1), respectively. The fluxes show large diurnal, seasonal and spatial variabilities, but there is a strong correlation between the fluxes of CH3Br and those of CH3Cl, with an average molar flux ratio of roughly 1:20. If our measurements are typical of salt marshes globally, they suggest that such ecosystems, even though they constitute less than 0.1% of the global surface area(2), may produce roughly 10% of the total fluxes of atmospheric CH3Br and CH3Cl.