A mechanistic approach is presented to describe oxidation of the greenhouse gas methane in the rice rhizosphere of flooded paddies by obligate methanotrophic bacteria. In flooded rice paddies these methanotrophs compete for available O2 with other types of bacteria. Soil incubation studies and most-probable-number (MPN) counts of oxygen consumers show that microbial oxygen consumption rates were dominated by heterotrophic and methanotrophic respiration. MPN counts of methanotrophs showed large spatial and temporal variability. The most abundant methanotrophs (a Methylocystis sp.) and heterotrophs (a Pseudomonas sp. and a Rhodococcus sp.) were isolated and characterized. Growth dynamics of these bacteria under carbon and oxygen limitations are presented. Theoretical calculations based on measured growth dynamics show that methanotrophs were only able to outcompete heterotrophs at low oxygen concentrations (frequently <5 ?M). The oxygen concentration at which methanotrophs won the competition from heterotrophs did not depend on methane concentration, but it was highly affected by organic carbon concentrations in the paddy soil. Methane oxidation was severely inhibited at high acetate concentrations. This is in accordance with competition experiments between Pseudomonas spp. and Methylocystis spp. carried out at different oxygen and carbon concentrations. Likely, methane oxidation mainly occurs at microaerophilic and low-acetate conditions and thus not directly at the root surface. Acetate and oxygen concentrations in the rice rhizosphere are in the critical range for methane oxidation, and a high variability in methane oxidation rates is thus expected.