Soils serve as the biological sink of the potent greenhouse gas methane with exceptionally low concentrations of ~1.84 p.p.m.v. in the atmosphere. The as-yet-uncultivated methane-consuming bacteria have long been proposed to be responsible for this ‘high-affinity’ methane oxidation (HAMO). Here we show an emerging HAMO activity arising from conventional methanotrophs in paddy soil. HAMO activity was quickly induced during the low-affinity oxidation of high-concentration methane. Activity was lost gradually over 2 weeks, but could be repeatedly regained by flush-feeding the soil with elevated methane. The induction of HAMO activity occurred only after the rapid growth of methanotrophic populations, and a metatranscriptome-wide association study suggests that the concurrent high- and low-affinity methane oxidation was catalysed by known methanotrophs rather than by the proposed novel atmospheric methane oxidizers. These results provide evidence of atmospheric methane uptake in periodically drained ecosystems that are typically considered to be a source of atmospheric methane.