Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Biogeosciences, 14, 1631-1645, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
29 Mar 2017
Effects of low oxygen concentrations on aerobic methane oxidation in seasonally hypoxic coastal waters
Lea Steinle1,2, Johanna Maltby2,3, Tina Treude2,4, Annette Kock2, Hermann W. Bange2, Nadine Engbersen1, Jakob Zopfi1, Moritz F. Lehmann1, and Helge Niemann1,5 1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
2GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Marine Biogeochemistry Research Division, 24148 Kiel, Germany
3Department of Natural Sciences, Saint Joseph's College, Standish, Maine, USA
4Department of Earth, Planetary & Space Sciences and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences, University of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
5CAGE – Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, Department of Geology, UiT the Arctic University of Norway, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
Abstract. Coastal seas may account for more than 75 % of global oceanic methane emissions. There, methane is mainly produced microbially in anoxic sediments from which it can escape to the overlying water column. Aerobic methane oxidation (MOx) in the water column acts as a biological filter, reducing the amount of methane that eventually evades to the atmosphere. The efficiency of the MOx filter is potentially controlled by the availability of dissolved methane and oxygen, as well as temperature, salinity, and hydrographic dynamics, and all of these factors undergo strong temporal fluctuations in coastal ecosystems. In order to elucidate the key environmental controls, specifically the effect of oxygen availability, on MOx in a seasonally stratified and hypoxic coastal marine setting, we conducted a 2-year time-series study with measurements of MOx and physico-chemical water column parameters in a coastal inlet in the south-western Baltic Sea (Eckernförde Bay). We found that MOx rates generally increased toward the seafloor, but were not directly linked to methane concentrations. MOx exhibited a strong seasonal variability, with maximum rates (up to 11.6 nmol L−1 d−1) during summer stratification when oxygen concentrations were lowest and bottom-water temperatures were highest. Under these conditions, 2.4–19.0 times more methane was oxidized than emitted to the atmosphere, whereas about the same amount was consumed and emitted during the mixed and oxygenated periods. Laboratory experiments with manipulated oxygen concentrations in the range of 0.2–220 µmol L−1 revealed a submicromolar oxygen optimum for MOx at the study site. In contrast, the fraction of methane–carbon incorporation into the bacterial biomass (compared to the total amount of oxidized methane) was up to 38-fold higher at saturated oxygen concentrations, suggesting a different partitioning of catabolic and anabolic processes under oxygen-replete and oxygen-starved conditions, respectively. Our results underscore the importance of MOx in mitigating methane emission from coastal waters and indicate an organism-level adaptation of the water column methanotrophs to hypoxic conditions.

Citation: Steinle, L., Maltby, J., Treude, T., Kock, A., Bange, H. W., Engbersen, N., Zopfi, J., Lehmann, M. F., and Niemann, H.: Effects of low oxygen concentrations on aerobic methane oxidation in seasonally hypoxic coastal waters, Biogeosciences, 14, 1631-1645, doi:10.5194/bg-14-1631-2017, 2017.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Large amounts of methane are produced in anoxic, coastal sediments, from which it can seep into the overlying water column. Aerobic oxidation of methane (MOx) mediated by methanotrophic bacteria is an important sink for methane before its evasion to the atmosphere. In a 2-year seasonal study, we investigated the spatio-temporal variability of MOx in a seasonally hypoxic coastal inlet using radiotracer-based methods. In experiments, we assessed the effect of variable oxygen concentrations on MOx.
Large amounts of methane are produced in anoxic, coastal sediments, from which it can seep into...