Ebullitive methane emissions from oxygenated wetland streams at North Temperate Lakes LTER 2013
Stream and river carbon dioxide emissions are an important component of the global carbon cycle. Methane emissions from streams could also contribute to regional or global greenhouse gas cycling, but there are relatively few data regarding stream and river methane emissions. Furthermore, the available data do not typically include the ebullitive (bubble-mediated) pathway, instead focusing on emission of dissolved methane by diffusion or convection. Here, we show the importance of ebullitive methane emissions from small streams in the regional greenhouse gas balance of a lake and wetland-dominated landscape in temperate North America and identify the origin of the methane emitted from these well-oxygenated streams. Stream methane flux densities from this landscape tended to exceed those of nearby wetland diffusive fluxes as well as average global wetland ebullitive fluxes. Total stream ebullitive methane flux at the regional scale (103 Mg C yr-1; over 6400 km2) was of the same magnitude as diffusive methane flux previously documented at the same scale. Organic-rich stream sediments had the highest rates of bubble release and higher enrichment of methane in bubbles, but glacial sand sediments also exhibited high bubble emissions relative to other studied environments. Our results from a database of groundwater chemistry support the hypothesis that methane in bubbles is produced in anoxic near-stream sediment porewaters, and not in deeper, oxygenated groundwaters. Methane interacts with other key elemental cycles such as nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur, which has implications for ecosystem changes such as drought and increased nutrient loading. Our results support the contention that streams, particularly those draining wetland landscapes of the northern hemisphere, are an important component of the global methane cycle.
Rate of bubble releaseWe deployed 30 inverted funnel-style bubble traps (Molongoski and Klug, 1980; Baulch et al., 2011) on Allequash Creek on 31 May 2013 to measure volumetric bubble release rates. Fifteen traps were placed in two sandy sediment sections and 15 were placed in muck sediments in the wetland portion of the creek (number 8–22), which sits in-between the two sandy sections. Site 1 was the most downstream sampling site (water flows from East to West). Traps were sampled approximately every other day after 1 June 2013 until 31 October 2013 (we omitted the first samples collected 24 h following trap installation; total of 65 sample events per trap). Our sampling design allowed us to assess both the spatial and temporal variability in ebullition along Allequash Creek and how ebullition related to potential controlling factors such as sediment composition, atmospheric pressure, groundwater CH4, and organic matter content (discussed further below). To characterize our ebullition time series from Allequash Creek in the larger context of the NHLD, we installed an additional 12 traps on three additional creeks (Mann Creek, Stevenson Creek, and North Creek in the Trout Lake drainage; three per site in an even mix of sand and muck sediments) and the headwater spring ponds that drain into Allequash Creek on 23 June 2013 which we sampled approximately every week for the remainder of the study. Bubble traps had a bottom surface area of appr. 503 cm2 which narrowed at the top into a graduated (1 mL resolution) syringe and 3-way stopcock. Traps were attached to steel poles that were pounded into the substrate. Traps were almost completely submerged and contained no headspace at deployment. Water depth below traps averaged 55.7 cm, but we were unable to place traps in locations where water depth was shallower than 15 cm. Water velocity during baseflow at the traps averaged 0.06 m s -1 (range = 0.003–0.23 m s -1). We sampled traps by carefully approaching them either by boat (muck sites) or by wading (sandy sites) to avoid induced ebullition. Volume of accumulated gas in the trap was based on the graduated syringe, and volumes less than 1 mL were recorded as zero. Traps were reset between sampling events by refilling them completely with water to eliminate all headspace. To assess the hypothesis that declines in atmospheric pressure are related to increased bubble release (Mattson and Likens, 1990; Comas et al., 2011), we compared a 15 min resolution atmospheric pressure time series recorded using a Vaisala BAROCAP barometer deployed near trap number 7 with a subset of the bubble release time series.