Methanotrophs use methane (CH4) as a carbon source. They are particularly active in temperate forest soils. However, the rate of change of CH4 oxidation in soil with afforestation or reforestation is poorly understood. Here, soil CH4 oxidation was examined in New Zealand volcanic soils under regenerating native forests following burning, and in a mature native forest. Results were compared with data for pasture to pine land-use change at nearby sites. We show that following soil disturbance, as little as 47 years may be needed for development of a stable methanotrophic community similar to that in the undisturbed native forest soil. Corresponding soil CH4-oxidation rates in the regenerating forest soil have the potential to reach those of the mature forest, but climo-edaphic fators appear limiting. The observed changes in CH4-oxidation rate were directly linked to a prior shift in methanotrophic communities, which suggests microbial control of the terrestrial CH4 flux and identifies the need to account for this response to afforestation and reforestation in global prediction of CH4 emission.