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Dr Sunitha Pangala

Profile summary

  • Research Staff
  • Post Doctoral Research Associate
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences
  • sunitha.pangala

Professional biography

As a post doctoral research associate at the Open University, I investigate the capacity for tropical trees to emit soil-produced methane to the atmosphere. My work mainly focuses on two unique ecosystems: Bornean peatswamp forests and Amazonian wetlands. I not only assess if this understudied methane transport pathway can make sizeable contributions to regional and global methane budgets but also investigate the mechanisms responsible for methane transport in trees and insights on controls and variability.  Within the time scales of my post doc, I have so far completed two expeditions in Central Amazon basin and a short study in pristine peatswamp forests of Brunei. Long term monitoring of tree-mediated methane emissions from Bornean trees will commence in early 2015 with an aim to understand the seasonal dynamics of tree mediated methane emissions. 

I supervise Matt Kent, second year PhD student at the Open University and Emma Davidson, Bachelors student at Linkoping University as the second supervisor.


PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences  (2009 - 2013)

The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Research Project: “Methane emissions from wetland trees: controls and variability”

PhD Supervisors: Dr. Vincent Gauci, Prof. David Gowing & Dr. Edward Hornibrook

My PhD project investigated the role of wetland adapted trees in transporting soil-produced methane to the atmosphere from both tropical and temperate forested wetlands.  The study suggests that trees in tropical and temperate wetlands emit significant quantities of methane, contributing up to 89% to the ecosystem methane flux. Given that, methane is an important greenhouse gas and 60% of the global wetlands are forested, our study underscores the need for the inclusion of methane emissions from trees in global methane budget estimates, in order to accurately predict its responses to changing environment.

MSc by Research in Environmental Geosciences  (2007 – 2008)

School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Research Project: “Mitigation of methane emissions from a constructed wetland”

Supervisors: Dr. Dave Reay & Dr. Kate Heal (School of Geosciences)

My Master's project explored the potential for mitigating methane emissions from constructed wetland using two electron acceptors (ochre, a by-product generated from acid mine drain treatment and gypsum), whilst maintaining their water treatment efficiency. Under in-situ conditions, gypsum did not supress methane emissions but the use of ochre (a waste product which is often landfilled) offered a win-win situation by suppressed methane emissions by upto 70% without altering the water treatment efficiency of the wetland.

Bachelor of Engineering in Environmental Engineering (4 years, Hons)    (2000 – 2004)

Visveswaraiah Technological University, Mysore, India

Final Year Research Project: “Polluted ground water treatment using low cost indigenous media”


Research interests

Biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen, global methane budget, land use impacts on greenhouse gas fluxes, microbial ecology, methane cycling within trees, pathways of methane emissions, microbial interactions in soil, tree physiology and forest ecology. 

External collaborations

Ed Hornibrook from Bristol University, Sue Page from Leicester University and Sofie Sjögersten from Nottingham Universty - our collaborators on TropTreeMeth project.

Charles Harvey, Alex Cobb and Alison Hoyt from MIT, Boston, USA - our collaborators on Brunei project.

Alex Enrich-Prast from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and David Bastviken from Linkoping University - our collaborators on Amazon project. 


Semi-rigid chambers for methane gas flux measurements on tree stems (2016-02-26)
Siegenthaler, Andy; Welch, Bertie; Pangala, Sunitha R.; Peacock, Michael and Gauci, Vincent
Biogeosciences, 13 (pp. 1197-1207)
The contribution of trees to ecosystem methane emissions in a temperate forested wetland (2015-07)
Pangala, Sunitha R.; Hornibrook, Edward R.C.; Gowing, David J. and Gauci, Vincent
Global Change Biology, 21(7) (pp. 2642-2654)
Controls on methane emissions from Alnus glutinosa saplings (2014-02)
Pangala, Sunitha R.; Gowing, David J.; Hornibrook, Edward R. C. and Gauci, Vincent
New Phytologist, 201(3) (pp. 887-896)
Trees are major conduits for methane egress from tropical forested wetlands (2013)
Pangala, Sunitha R.; Moore, Sam; Hornibrook, Edward R. C. and Gauci, Vincent
New Phytologist, 197(2) (pp. 524-531)
Mitigation of methane emissions from constructed farm wetlands (2010-01)
Pangala, Sunitha R.; Reay, David S. and Heal , Kate V.
Chemosphere, 78(5) (pp. 493-499)
Methane production and transport in a tropical peatland (2014)
Hoyt, Alison; Pangala, Sunitha; Gandois, Laure; Cobb, Alex; Kai, Fuu-Ming; Xu, Xiaomei; Gauci, Vincent; Mahmud , Y.; Kamariah, A.; Eri, Jangarun and Harvey, Charles
In : AGU Fall Meeting (15-19 December 2014, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Methane emissions from woody stems of tropical and temperate wetland trees (2013-12-12)
Pangala, S. R.; Hornibrook, E. R.; Gowing, D. J.; Bastviken, D.; Enrich-Prast, A. and Gauci, V.
In : AGU Fall Meeting (9-13 Dec 2010, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Trees are important conduits for emission of methane from temperate and tropical wetlands (2013-04)
Gauci, Vincent; Pangala, Sunitha; Gowing, David and Hornibrook, Edward
In : European Geosciences Union General Assembly (07 – 12 April 2013, Vienna)
Methane emission through trees in temperate and tropical wetlands (2012-12)
Pangala, Sunitha R.; Gauci, Vincent; Hornibrook, Edward R. C. and Gowing, David
In : AGU Fall Meeting (3-7 December 2012, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Methane emissions through trees in tropical and temperate forested wetlands (2012-06)
Pangala, Sunitha R.; Gauci, Vincent; Hornibrook, Edward R. C. and Gowing, David J.
In : 9th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference: Wetlands in a Complex World (03-08 June 2012, Orlando, Florida) (p 170)
Considering scale when assessing wetland methane emissions: wetland forest soils versus wetland forests (2012-06)
Gauci, Vincent and Pangala, Sunitha R.
In : 9th INTECOL International Wetlands Conference: Wetlands In A Complex World (03-08 June 2012, Orlando, Florida) (p 156)
Tree-mediated methane emissions from tropical and temperate peatlands (2012-04-26)
Pangala, S. R.; Gauci, V.; Hornibrook, E. R. C. and Gowing, D. J.
In : EGU General Assembly 2012 (22-27 April 2012, Vienna)