Conclusions

The major environmental factors influencing the soil methane sink are water and nitrogen, but a variety of other factors are also important. Most anthropogenic influences decrease the soil methane sink, but interpretation of the mechanisms behind the inhibition is complicated by our limited knowledge of the microorganisms responsible.

The accumulated molecular and cultivation evidence suggests that there is no single atmospheric methane oxidizer. The process of atmospheric methane oxidation is carried out by different species in different soils, and at least four taxonomic groups appear to be important so far. There are several potential ecological strategies these bacteria may use, including oligotrophy mediated by a high-affinity enzyme, growth on alternative substrates as well as methane and flush-feeding. These strategies may differ across species and environments. The species responsible for methane oxidation in many forest soils have only been studied indirectly, and are not yet available in culture. If and when this is achieved, a better understanding of the soil methane sink might be achieved.

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