Aquatic herbivores facilitate the emission of methane from wetlands
Wetlands are significant sources of atmospheric methane. Methane produced by microbes enters roots and escapes to the atmosphere through the shoots of emergent wetland plants. Herbivorous birds graze on helophytes, but their effect on methane emission remains unknown. We hypothesized that grazing on shoots of wetland plants can modulate methane emission from wetlands. Diffusive methane emission was monitored inside and outside bird exclosures, using static flux chambers placed over whole vegetation and over single shoots. Both methods showed significantly higher methane release from grazed vegetation. Surface-based diffusive methane emission from grazed plots was up to five times higher compared to exclosures. The absence of an effect on methane-cycling microbial processes indicated that this modulating effect acts on the gas transport by the plants. Modulation of methane emission by animal–plant–microbe interactions deserves further attention considering the increasing bird populations and changes in wetland vegetation as a consequence of changing land use and climate change.