Methane bubbling from northern lakes: present and future contributions to the global methane budget.

Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences (Impact Factor: 2.86). 08/2007; 365(1856):1657-76. DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2007.2036
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Large uncertainties in the budget of atmospheric methane (CH4) limit the accuracy of climate change projections. Here we describe and quantify an important source of CH4 -- point-source ebullition (bubbling) from northern lakes -- that has not been incorporated in previous regional or global methane budgets. Employing a method recently introduced to measure ebullition more accurately by taking into account its spatial patchiness in lakes, we estimate point-source ebullition for 16 lakes in Alaska and Siberia that represent several common northern lake types: glacial, alluvial floodplain, peatland and thermokarst (thaw) lakes. Extrapolation of measured fluxes from these 16 sites to all lakes north of 45 degrees N using circumpolar databases of lake and permafrost distributions suggests that northern lakes are a globally significant source of atmospheric CH4, emitting approximately 24.2+/-10.5Tg CH4yr(-1). Thermokarst lakes have particularly high emissions because they release CH4 produced from organic matter previously sequestered in permafrost. A carbon mass balance calculation of CH4 release from thermokarst lakes on the Siberian yedoma ice complex suggests that these lakes alone would emit as much as approximately 49000Tg CH4 if this ice complex was to thaw completely. Using a space-for-time substitution based on the current lake distributions in permafrost-dominated and permafrost-free terrains, we estimate that lake emissions would be reduced by approximately 12% in a more probable transitional permafrost scenario and by approximately 53% in a 'permafrost-free' Northern Hemisphere. Long-term decline in CH4 ebullition from lakes due to lake area loss and permafrost thaw would occur only after the large release of CH4 associated thermokarst lake development in the zone of continuous permafrost.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The organic-carbon (OC) pool accumulated in Arctic permafrost (perennially frozen ground) equals the carbon stored in the modern atmosphere. To give an idea of how Yedoma region permafrost could respond under future climatic warming, we conducted a study to quantify the organic-matter quality (here defined as the intrinsic potential to be further transformed, decomposed, and mineralized) of late Pleistocene (Yedoma) and Holocene (thermokarst) deposits on the Buor-Khaya Peninsula, northeast Siberia. The objective of this study was to develop a stratigraphic classified organic-matter quality characterization. For this purpose the degree of organic-matter decomposition was estimated by using a multiproxy approach. We applied sedimentological (grain-size analyses, bulk density, ice content) and geochemical parameters (total OC, stable carbon isotopes (δ13C), total organic carbon : nitrogen (C / N) ratios) as well as lipid biomarkers (n-alkanes, n-fatty acids, hopanes, triterpenoids, and biomarker indices, i.e., average chain length, carbon preference index (CPI), and higher-plant fatty-acid index (HPFA)). Our results show that the Yedoma and thermokarst organic-matter qualities for further decomposition exhibit no obvious degradation–depth trend. Relatively, the C / N and δ13C values and the HPFA index show a significantly better preservation of the organic matter stored in thermokarst deposits compared to Yedoma deposits. The CPI data suggest less degradation of the organic matter from both deposits, with a higher value for Yedoma organic matter. As the interquartile ranges of the proxies mostly overlap, we interpret this as indicating comparable quality for further decomposition for both kinds of deposits with likely better thermokarst organic-matter quality. Supported by principal component analyses, the sediment parameters and quality proxies of Yedoma and thermokarst deposits could not be unambiguously separated from each other. This revealed that the organic-matter vulnerability is heterogeneous and depends on different decomposition trajectories and the previous decomposition and preservation history. Elucidating this was one of the major new contributions of our multiproxy study. With the addition of biomarker data, it was possible to show that permafrost organic-matter degradation likely occurs via a combination of (uncompleted) degradation cycles or a cascade of degradation steps rather than as a linear function of age or sediment facies. We conclude that the amount of organic matter in the studied sediments is high for mineral soils and of good quality and therefore susceptible to future decomposition. The lack of depth trends shows that permafrost acts like a giant freezer, preserving the constant quality of ancient organic matter. When undecomposed Yedoma organic matter is mobilized via thermokarst processes, the fate of this carbon depends largely on the environmental conditions; the carbon could be preserved in an undecomposed state till refreezing occurs. If modern input has occurred, thermokarst organic matter could be of a better quality for future microbial decomposition than that found in Yedoma deposits.
    Biogeosciences 04/2015; 12:2227–2245. DOI:10.5194/bg-12-2227-2015 · 3.75 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Methane emissions in the Arctic are important, and may be contributing to global warming. While methane emission rates from Arctic lakes are well documented, methods are needed to quantify the relative contribution of active layer groundwater to the overall lake methane budget. Here we report measurements of natural tracers of soil/groundwater, radon, and radium, along with methane concentration in Toolik Lake, Alaska, to evaluate the role active layer water plays as an exogenous source for lake methane. Average concentrations of methane, radium, and radon were all elevated in the active layer compared with lake water (1.6 × 10(4) nM, 61.6 dpm⋅m(-3), and 4.5 × 10(5) dpm⋅m(-3) compared with 1.3 × 10(2) nM, 5.7 dpm⋅m(-3), and 4.4 × 10(3) dpm⋅m(-3), respectively). Methane transport from the active layer to Toolik Lake based on the geochemical tracer radon (up to 2.9 g⋅m(-2)⋅y(-1)) can account for a large fraction of methane emissions from this lake. Strong but spatially and temporally variable correlations between radon activity and methane concentrations (r(2) > 0.69) in lake water suggest that the parameters that control methane discharge from the active layer also vary. Warming in the Arctic may expand the active layer and increase the discharge, thereby increasing the methane flux to lakes and from lakes to the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming. More work is needed to quantify and elucidate the processes that control methane fluxes from the active layer to predict how this flux might change in the future and to evaluate the regional and global contribution of active layer water associated methane inputs.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2015; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1417392112 · 9.81 Impact Factor


Available from