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CURATOR
A pinboard by
McKenzie Kuhn

PhD Candidate, University of Alberta

PINBOARD SUMMARY

My research investigates greenhouse gas emissions from lakes in the Northwest Territories.

Methane is a a powerful greenhouse gas and is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane is commonly produced in the low-oxygen sediments of lakes and these emissions are considered sensitive to climate change, but many regions, including boreal western Canada, are largely unstudied. Western Canada has several characteristics that could influence magnitude and controls on lake methane emissions in comparison to other regions, including permafrost, or perennially frozen ground. Rising temperatures and the submergence of recently thawed permafrost into lakes has been identified as a major driver of regional methane emissions as previously stored organic matter is released. However, western Canada it is also characterized by complex groundwater interactions, leading to highly variable water chemistry and terminal electron acceptor concentrations (TEAs) among lakes. TEAs, including sulfate, inhibit methane production, thus possibly making lakes in western Canada distinctly different from lakes in Siberia, Alaska, and eastern Canada. Currently, models rely on limited measurements from these locations to estimate methane lake emissions for the entire northern region. Given there is a 35% uncertainty associated with methane emissions from wetlands and small lakes, more measurements from under-represented regions are necessary. The goal of my research is to describe the similarities and differences in processes governing lake methane emission between western Canada and other regions. The results of this project will help improve current biogeochemical methane models, which are integral to projecting future emissions and instating effective climate change policies at the provincial and national levels.

7 ITEMS PINNED

Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming.

Abstract: Large uncertainties in the budget of atmospheric methane, an important greenhouse gas, limit the accuracy of climate change projections. Thaw lakes in North Siberia are known to emit methane, but the magnitude of these emissions remains uncertain because most methane is released through ebullition (bubbling), which is spatially and temporally variable. Here we report a new method of measuring ebullition and use it to quantify methane emissions from two thaw lakes in North Siberia. We show that ebullition accounts for 95 per cent of methane emissions from these lakes, and that methane flux from thaw lakes in our study region may be five times higher than previously estimated. Extrapolation of these fluxes indicates that thaw lakes in North Siberia emit 3.8 teragrams of methane per year, which increases present estimates of methane emissions from northern wetlands (< 6-40 teragrams per year; refs 1, 2, 4-6) by between 10 and 63 per cent. We find that thawing permafrost along lake margins accounts for most of the methane released from the lakes, and estimate that an expansion of thaw lakes between 1974 and 2000, which was concurrent with regional warming, increased methane emissions in our study region by 58 per cent. Furthermore, the Pleistocene age (35,260-42,900 years) of methane emitted from hotspots along thawing lake margins indicates that this positive feedback to climate warming has led to the release of old carbon stocks previously stored in permafrost.

Pub.: 08 Sep '06, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

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

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.

Pub.: 22 May '07, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Substrate limitation of sediment methane flux, methane oxidation and use of stable isotopes for assessing methanogenesis pathways in a small arctic lake

Abstract: Among predicted impacts of climate change in the Arctic are greater thaw depth and shifts in vegetation patterns and hydrology that are likely to increase organic carbon and nutrient loading to lakes. We measured substrate limitation of sediment methane (CH4) flux, examined pathways of methanogenesis, and potential CH4 oxidation using stable isotope labeled acetate in intact sediment cores from arctic lake GTH 112 (68°40′20″N, 149°14′57″W). We hypothesized that the acetoclastic pathway would dominate methanogenesis, reflecting dissolved organic carbon supply from the surrounding landscape, and that sediment CH4 flux would be stimulated by addition of acetate. Experiments demonstrated acetate limitation of sediment CH4 flux with short-term CH4 flux response to availability of acetate, high rates of CH4 oxidation, and strong dominance of the acetoclastic over the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic pathway. The experiments also indicated that isotopic fractionation effects during isotope enrichment experiments are large during methanogenesis and can alter the methanogenic pathways being investigated. Under oxic conditions, CH4 oxidation at the sediment–water interface or in the water column is likely to account for much of diffusive CH4 flux, but under anoxic hypolimnetic conditions and increased substrate availability, conditions that are likely to occur with climate change, sediment CH4 flux will likely increase, with oxidation utilizing a smaller portion of sediment CH4 production.

Pub.: 22 May '13, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Changes in peat chemistry associated with permafrost thaw increase greenhouse gas production.

Abstract: Carbon release due to permafrost thaw represents a potentially major positive climate change feedback. The magnitude of carbon loss and the proportion lost as methane (CH4) vs. carbon dioxide (CO2) depend on factors including temperature, mobilization of previously frozen carbon, hydrology, and changes in organic matter chemistry associated with environmental responses to thaw. While the first three of these effects are relatively well understood, the effect of organic matter chemistry remains largely unstudied. To address this gap, we examined the biogeochemistry of peat and dissolved organic matter (DOM) along a ∼40-y permafrost thaw progression from recently- to fully thawed sites in Stordalen Mire (68.35°N, 19.05°E), a thawing peat plateau in northern Sweden. Thaw-induced subsidence and the resulting inundation along this progression led to succession in vegetation types accompanied by an evolution in organic matter chemistry. Peat C/N ratios decreased whereas humification rates increased, and DOM shifted toward lower molecular weight compounds with lower aromaticity, lower organic oxygen content, and more abundant microbially produced compounds. Corresponding changes in decomposition along this gradient included increasing CH4 and CO2 production potentials, higher relative CH4/CO2 ratios, and a shift in CH4 production pathway from CO2 reduction to acetate cleavage. These results imply that subsidence and thermokarst-associated increases in organic matter lability cause shifts in biogeochemical processes toward faster decomposition with an increasing proportion of carbon released as CH4. This impact of permafrost thaw on organic matter chemistry could intensify the predicted climate feedbacks of increasing temperatures, permafrost carbon mobilization, and hydrologic changes.

Pub.: 09 Apr '14, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Spatial variation in flux, δ 13 C and δ 2 H of methane in a small Arctic lake with fringing wetland in western Greenland

Abstract: Abstract Small lakes in northern latitudes represent a significant source of CH4 to the atmosphere that is predicted to increase with warming in the Arctic. Yet, whole-lake CH4 budgets are lacking as are measurements of δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4. In this study, we quantify spatial variability of diffusive and ebullitive fluxes of CH4 and corresponding δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4 in a small, Arctic lake system with fringing wetland in southwestern Greenland during summer. Net CH4 flux was highly variable, ranging from an average flux of 7 mg CH4 m−2 d−1 in the deep-water zone to 154 mg CH4 m−2 d−1 along the lake margin. Diffusive flux accounted for ~8.5 % of mean net CH4 flux, with plant-mediated and ebullitive flux accounting for the balance of the total net flux. Methane content of emitted ebullition was low (mean ± SD 10 ± 17 %) compared to previous studies from boreal lakes and wetlands. Isotopic composition of net CH4 emissions varied widely throughout the system, with δ13C-CH4 ranging from −66.2 to −55.5 ‰, and δ2H-CH4 ranging from −345 to −258 ‰. Carbon isotope composition of CH4 in ebullitive flux showed wider variation compared to net flux, ranging from −69.2 to −49.2 ‰. Dissolved CH4 concentrations were highest in the sediment and decreased up the water column. Higher concentrations of CH4 in the hypoxic deep water coincided with decreasing dissolved O2 concentrations, while methanotrophic oxidation dominated in the epilimnion based upon decreasing concentrations and increasing values of δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4. The most depleted 13C- and 2H-isotopic values were observed in profundal bottom waters and in subsurface profundal sediments. Based upon paired δ13C and δ2H observations of CH4, acetate fermentation was likely the dominant production pathway throughout the system. However, isotopic ratios of CH4 in deeper sediments were consistent with mixing/transition between CH4 production pathways, indicating a higher contribution of the CO2 reduction pathway. The large spatial variability in fluxes of CH4 and in isotopic composition of CH4 throughout a single lake system indicates that the underlying mechanisms controlling CH4 cycling (production, consumption and transport) are spatially heterogeneous. Net flux along the lake margin dominated whole-lake flux, suggesting the nearshore littoral area dominates CH4 emissions in these systems. Future studies of whole-lake CH4 budgets should consider this significant spatial heterogeneity.AbstractSmall lakes in northern latitudes represent a significant source of CH4 to the atmosphere that is predicted to increase with warming in the Arctic. Yet, whole-lake CH4 budgets are lacking as are measurements of δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4. In this study, we quantify spatial variability of diffusive and ebullitive fluxes of CH4 and corresponding δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4 in a small, Arctic lake system with fringing wetland in southwestern Greenland during summer. Net CH4 flux was highly variable, ranging from an average flux of 7 mg CH4 m−2 d−1 in the deep-water zone to 154 mg CH4 m−2 d−1 along the lake margin. Diffusive flux accounted for ~8.5 % of mean net CH4 flux, with plant-mediated and ebullitive flux accounting for the balance of the total net flux. Methane content of emitted ebullition was low (mean ± SD 10 ± 17 %) compared to previous studies from boreal lakes and wetlands. Isotopic composition of net CH4 emissions varied widely throughout the system, with δ13C-CH4 ranging from −66.2 to −55.5 ‰, and δ2H-CH4 ranging from −345 to −258 ‰. Carbon isotope composition of CH4 in ebullitive flux showed wider variation compared to net flux, ranging from −69.2 to −49.2 ‰. Dissolved CH4 concentrations were highest in the sediment and decreased up the water column. Higher concentrations of CH4 in the hypoxic deep water coincided with decreasing dissolved O2 concentrations, while methanotrophic oxidation dominated in the epilimnion based upon decreasing concentrations and increasing values of δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4. The most depleted 13C- and 2H-isotopic values were observed in profundal bottom waters and in subsurface profundal sediments. Based upon paired δ13C and δ2H observations of CH4, acetate fermentation was likely the dominant production pathway throughout the system. However, isotopic ratios of CH4 in deeper sediments were consistent with mixing/transition between CH4 production pathways, indicating a higher contribution of the CO2 reduction pathway. The large spatial variability in fluxes of CH4 and in isotopic composition of CH4 throughout a single lake system indicates that the underlying mechanisms controlling CH4 cycling (production, consumption and transport) are spatially heterogeneous. Net flux along the lake margin dominated whole-lake flux, suggesting the nearshore littoral area dominates CH4 emissions in these systems. Future studies of whole-lake CH4 budgets should consider this significant spatial heterogeneity.441342441342444−2−14−2−14413424444213424132132444244444

Pub.: 19 Oct '16, Pinned: 28 Jun '17

Biogeochemistry of “pristine” freshwater stream and lake systems in the western Canadian Arctic

Abstract: Abstract Climate change poses a substantial threat to the stability of the Arctic terrestrial carbon (C) pool as warmer air temperatures thaw permafrost and deepen the seasonally-thawed active layer of soils and sediments. Enhanced water flow through this layer may accelerate the transport of C and major cations and anions to streams and lakes. These act as important conduits and reactors for dissolved C within the terrestrial C cycle. It is important for studies to consider these processes in small headwater catchments, which have been identified as hotspots of rapid mineralisation of C sourced from ancient permafrost thaw. In order to better understand the role of inland waters in terrestrial C cycling we characterised the biogeochemistry of the freshwater systems in a c. 14 km2 study area in the western Canadian Arctic. Sampling took place during the snow-free seasons of 2013 and 2014 for major inorganic solutes, dissolved organic and inorganic C (DOC and DIC, respectively), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) concentrations from three water type groups: lakes, polygonal pools and streams. These groups displayed differing biogeochemical signatures, indicative of contrasting biogeochemical controls. However, none of the groups showed strong signals of enhanced permafrost thaw during the study seasons. The mean annual air temperature in the region has increased by more than 2.5 °C since 1970, and continued warming will likely affect the aquatic biogeochemistry. This study provides important baseline data for comparison with future studies in a warming Arctic.AbstractClimate change poses a substantial threat to the stability of the Arctic terrestrial carbon (C) pool as warmer air temperatures thaw permafrost and deepen the seasonally-thawed active layer of soils and sediments. Enhanced water flow through this layer may accelerate the transport of C and major cations and anions to streams and lakes. These act as important conduits and reactors for dissolved C within the terrestrial C cycle. It is important for studies to consider these processes in small headwater catchments, which have been identified as hotspots of rapid mineralisation of C sourced from ancient permafrost thaw. In order to better understand the role of inland waters in terrestrial C cycling we characterised the biogeochemistry of the freshwater systems in a c. 14 km2 study area in the western Canadian Arctic. Sampling took place during the snow-free seasons of 2013 and 2014 for major inorganic solutes, dissolved organic and inorganic C (DOC and DIC, respectively), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) concentrations from three water type groups: lakes, polygonal pools and streams. These groups displayed differing biogeochemical signatures, indicative of contrasting biogeochemical controls. However, none of the groups showed strong signals of enhanced permafrost thaw during the study seasons. The mean annual air temperature in the region has increased by more than 2.5 °C since 1970, and continued warming will likely affect the aquatic biogeochemistry. This study provides important baseline data for comparison with future studies in a warming Arctic.c.224

Pub.: 11 Oct '16, Pinned: 28 Jun '17