1Landcare Research, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand
2Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, The University of Melbourne, VIC, Richmond, Australia
3Department of Geography and Resource Management, The University of Melbourne, VIC, Richmond, Australia
4Research Institute of the Environment Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, NT, Darwin, Australia
Abstract. We investigated the relative importance of CH4 and CO2 fluxes from soil and termite mounds at four different sites in the tropical savannas of northern Australia near Darwin and assessed different methods to indirectly predict CH4 fluxes based on CO2 fluxes and internal gas concentrations. The annual flux from termite mounds and surrounding soil was dominated by CO2 with large variations among sites. On a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) basis, annual CH4 flux estimates from termite mounds were 5- to 46-fold smaller than the concurrent annual CO2 flux estimates. Differences between annual soil CO2 and soil CH4 (CO2-e) fluxes were even greater, soil CO2 fluxes being almost three orders of magnitude greater than soil CH4 (CO2-e) fluxes at site. The contribution of CH4 and CO2 emissions from termite mounds to the total CH4 and CO2 emissions from termite mounds and soil in CO2-e was less than 1%. There were significant relationships between mound CH4 flux and mound CO2 flux, enabling the prediction of CH4 flux from measured CO2 flux; however, these relationships were clearly termite species specific. We also observed significant relationships between mound flux and gas concentration inside mound, for both CH4 and CO2, and for all termite species, thereby enabling the prediction of flux from measured mound internal gas concentration. However, these relationships were also termite species specific. Using the relationship between mound internal gas concentration and flux from one species to predict mound fluxes from other termite species (as has been done in the past) would result in errors of more than 5-fold for mound CH4 flux and 3-fold for mound CO2 flux. This study highlights that CO2 fluxes from termite mounds are generally more than one order of magnitude greater than CH4 fluxes. There are species-specific relationships between CH4 and CO2 fluxes from a mound, and between the inside mound concentration of a gas and the mound flux emission of the same gas, but these relationships vary greatly among termite species. Thus, there is no generic relationship that will allow for the accurate prediction of CH4 fluxes from termite mounds of all species, but given the data limitations, the above methods may still be used with caution.