Dominance of Diffusive Methane Emissions From Lowland Headwater Streams Promotes Oxidation and Isotopic Enrichment

TitleDominance of Diffusive Methane Emissions From Lowland Headwater Streams Promotes Oxidation and Isotopic Enrichment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsRobison AL, Wollheim WM, Perryman CR, Cotter AR, Mackay JE, Varner RK, Clarizia P, Ernakovich JG
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science

Inland waters are the largest natural source of methane (CH 4 ) to the atmosphere, yet the contribution from small streams to this flux is not clearly defined. To fully understand CH 4 emissions from streams and rivers, we must consider the relative importance of CH 4 emission pathways, the prominence of microbially-mediated production and oxidation of CH 4 , and the isotopic signature of emitted CH 4 . Here, we construct a complete CH 4 emission budgets for four lowland headwater streams by quantifying diffusive CH 4 emissions and comparing them to previously published rates of ebullitive emissions. We also examine the isotopic composition of CH 4 along with the sediment microbial community to investigate production and oxidation across the streams. We find that all four streams are supersaturated with respect to CH 4 with diffusive emissions accounting for approximately 78–100% of total CH 4 emissions. Isotopic and microbial data suggest CH 4 oxidation is prevalent across the streams, depleting approximately half of the dissolved CH 4 pool before emission. We propose a conceptual model of CH 4 production, oxidation, and emission from small streams, where the dominance of diffusive emissions is greater compared to other aquatic ecosystems, and the impact of CH 4 oxidation is observable in the emitted isotopic values. As a result, we suggest the CH 4 emitted from small streams is isotopically heavy compared to lentic ecosystems. Our results further demonstrate streams are important components of the global CH 4 cycle yet may be characterized by a unique pattern of cycling and emission that differentiate them from other aquatic ecosystems.

Citation Keyrobison_dominance_2022