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Energy & Environment

'Tree Farts' From NC Ghost Forests Produce Significant Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Study Finds

 Researchers are studying "tree farts" from ghost forests in North Carolina.
Researchers are studying "tree farts" from ghost forests in North Carolina.

A recently published study from North Carolina State University finds that standing dead trees in coastal wetland forests increase greenhouse gas emissions in their ecosystem by about 25%.

The study measured emissions — colloquially called "tree farts" — from dead trees and soils in five so-called "ghost forests" along the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in 2018 and 2019. Results showed that on average in both years, soils emitted four times more gas than the dead trees themselves.

But Melinda Martinez, a graduate student and the study's lead author, says the trees still contribute significantly to emissions.

"These trees are basically acting as straws for soil-produced gases that naturally occur in wetlands," said Martinez. "Because there's no canopy, there's no carbon uptake. And so basically these greenhouse gases are just being pumped out."

Ghost forests along the coast are expected to continue spreading because of rising sea levels.

An earlier study from NC State also found that standing dead trees may contribute to climate change and sea-level rise through carbon gas emissions, creating a compounded problem for North Carolina's ecosystem.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.