Methane emission dynamics among CO2-absorbing and thermokarst lakes of a great Arctic delta

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Authors: Cunada, CL; Lesack, LFW; Tank, SE
Year: 2021
Journal: Biogeochemistry 156: 375-399   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Methane emission dynamics among CO2-absorbing and thermokarst lakes of a great Arctic delta
Abstract: Lake-rich Arctic deltas differ biogeochemically from tundra lakes, and their role as sources and sinks of greenhouse gases remains poorly understood. Under-ice and open-water changes in methane (CH4) storage (43 lakes, 2014), floating chamber measurements of total and diffusive CH4 evasion to the atmosphere (6 lakes, 2014-2015), and water-column CH4 oxidation (MOX) (6 lakes, 2014-2015) permitted evaluation of how CH4 emissions vary among lakes with differing river-to-lake connection times within the Mackenzie Delta. CH4 emissions during ice-out were considerable, followed by substantial declines as open-water progressed. Water-column MOX rates were highest after ice-out, and declined throughout open-water. After accounting for a strong effect of CH4 substrate levels, MOX rates were inversely related to pH, which can increase to high levels during open-water because of high macrophyte production. Comparisons of water-column CH4 storage versus open-water fluxes (6 lakes) showed that diffusive evasion plus MOX removed most CH4 in the water columns every 1-2 days with only modest changes in storage, suggesting that counter-balancing water-column replenishment is substantial. Lakes with short river-connection times (i.e. most strongly autotrophic and strongly CO2-absorbing in this delta) and thermokarst lakes contribute disproportionately to CH4 flux, relative to lakes with long river-connection times. Thus, this great Arctic delta represents an important system of greenhouse-gas emitting lakes despite prior work showing their net absorption of CO2 during open-water, and having a low landscape area of CO2-saturated thermokarst lakes. Autotrophically absorbed CO2 becomes labile carbon substrate, and is microbially shunted back to the atmosphere as the more potent greenhouse gas CH4.
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