The study also shows that human activity seems to drive which streams are the biggest contributors. 'Scientists know that inland waters, like lakes and reservoirs, are big sources of methane,' said Emily Stanley, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in US.

But accurately measuring emissions of methane from these sources has remained a challenge. Like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat at the Earth's surface. It is less prevalent than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but also more potent.

Rivers and streams have not received much attention in accounting for that budget because they do not take up much surface area on a global scale and, with respect to methane, did not seem to be all that gassy, researchers said. But over the years, measurements taken by the researchers seemed to indicate these sources may produce more methane than scientists had previously known.

Together with researchers at the University of Winnipeg in Canada and US Geological Survey's LandCarbon Project, the team created a database of measured methane flux (the exchange of the gas between water and atmosphere) and methane concentrations measured in streams and rivers.

 As the climate warms, the contribution of greenhouse gases from natural sources likes rivers, streams and wetlands is expected to increase because higher temperatures accelerate this bacterial breakdown, releasing more carbon dioxide and metha The findings were published in the journal Ecological Monographs.

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