Biogeochemistry of methane in northern wetland ecosystems

Program or topic

Biogeochemistry of atmospheric greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxides in north temperate and boreal ecosystems

Department(s) or unit(s)

Natural Resources

Contact information

Joseph Yavitt

Professor, Natural Resources

Program goals

I study microbial processes and communities that produce and consume atmospheric greenhouse gases. I am particularly interested in the ecology, physiology, and genomics of methane producers (methanogens), methane consumers (methanotrophs), and denitrifying bacteria.

Brief Description

One long-standing research endeavor examines the biogeochemistry of methane in boreal wetland ecosystems. I am particularly interested in wetlands with peat soils (e.g., bogs, fens and swamps). We use several biochemical and molecular techniques to identify and cultivate methanogens and methantrophs, and to evaluate the ecological factors that control their distribution and abundance. A most recent study focuses on novel microorganisms that consume methane without oxygen. We also are interested in reconstructing wetland history and methane biogeochemistry over the past tens of millions of years to understand long-term climatic patterns in relation to concentrations of atmospheric methane. A second research endeavor examines denitrifying bacteria that produce and consume nitrogen oxide gases (nitric oxide, and nitrous oxide). We can isolate and cultivate these bacteria quite easily, but we also find unexpected diversity in physiology and genomics. We are investigating the ecological significance of denitrifier diversity.

For more information

Web links:

Joseph Yavitt’s profile page.


  • Yavitt J, Yashiro E, Cadillo-Quiroz H, Zinder S, 2012, Methanogen diversity and community composition in peatlands of the central to northern Appalachian Mountain region, North America, Biogeochemistry 109, 117-131,
  • Gupta V, Smemo K, Yavitt J, Basiliko N, 2012, Active methanotrophs in two contrasting North American peatland ecosystems revealed using DNA-SIP, Microbial Ecology, 63, 438-445,
  • Smemo KA, Yavitt JB, 2011, Anaerobic oxidation of methane: an underappreciated aspect of methane cycling in peatland ecosystems? Biogeosciences, 8, 779–793
  • Bräuer S, Cadillo-Quiroz H, Ward RJ, Yavitt J, Zinder S,2011, Methanoregula boonei gen. nov., sp. nov., an acidiphilic methanogen isolated from an acidic peat bog. Internatioanl Jounral of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, 61, 45–52

Category: Ecosystems, Greenhouse gasses, aerosols, Natural resources, Wetlands

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