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.

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    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
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    ABSTRACT: Methanotrophic bacteria play an important role oxidizing a significant fraction of methane (CH4) produced in lakes. Aerobic CH4 oxidation depends on lake CH4 and oxygen (O2) concentrations, temperature, and organic carbon input to lakes, including from thawing permafrost in thermokarst (thaw)-affected lakes. Given the large variability in these environmental factors, CH4 oxidation is expected to be subject to large seasonal and geographic variations, which have been scarcely reported in the literature. In the present study, we measured CH4 oxidation rates in 30 Alaskan lakes along a north–south latitudinal transect during winter and summer with a new field laser spectroscopy method. Additionally, we measured dissolved CH4 and O2 concentrations. We found that in the winter, aerobic CH4 oxidation was mainly controlled by the dissolved O2 concentration, while in the summer it was controlled primarily by the CH4 concentration, which was in deficit compared to dissolved O2. The permafrost environment of the lakes was identified as another key factor. Thermokarst (thaw) lakes formed in yedoma-type permafrost had significantly higher CH4 oxidation rates compared to other thermokarst and non-thermokarst lakes formed in non-yedoma permafrost environments. These results confirm that landscape processes play an important role in lake CH4 cycling.
    Biogeosciences Discussions 03/2015; 12(5):4213-4243. DOI:10.5194/bgd-12-4213-2015


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