Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 15, issue 21 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 6621-6635, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Nov 2018

Research article | 08 Nov 2018

Impacts of temperature and soil characteristics on methane production and oxidation in Arctic tundra

Jianqiu Zheng1, Taniya RoyChowdhury1,a, Ziming Yang2,b, Baohua Gu2, Stan D. Wullschleger2,3, and David E. Graham1,3 Jianqiu Zheng et al.
  • 1Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
  • 2Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
  • 3Climate Change Science Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
  • anow at: Department of Environmental Science & Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  • bnow at: Department of Chemistry, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA

Abstract. Rapid warming of Arctic ecosystems accelerates microbial decomposition of soil organic matter and leads to increased production of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). CH4 oxidation potentially mitigates CH4 emissions from permafrost regions, but it is still highly uncertain whether soils in high-latitude ecosystems will function as a net source or sink for CH4 in response to rising temperature and associated hydrological changes. We investigated CH4 production and oxidation potential in permafrost-affected soils from degraded ice-wedge polygons on the Barrow Environmental Observatory, Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska, USA. Frozen soil cores from flat and high-centered polygons were sectioned into organic, transitional, and permafrost layers, and incubated at −2, +4 and +8°C to determine potential CH4 production and oxidation rates. Significant CH4 production was only observed from the suboxic transition layer and permafrost of flat-centered polygon soil. These two soil sections also exhibited highest CH4 oxidation potentials. Organic soils from relatively dry surface layers had the lowest CH4 oxidation potential compared to saturated transition layer and permafrost, contradicting our original assumptions. Low methanogenesis rates are due to low overall microbial activities measured as total anaerobic respiration and the competing iron-reduction process. Our results suggest that CH4 oxidation could offset CH4 production and limit surface CH4 emissions, in response to elevated temperature, and thus must be considered in model predictions of net CH4 fluxes in Arctic polygonal tundra. Future changes in temperature and soil saturation conditions are likely to divert electron flow to alternative electron acceptors and significantly alter CH4 production, which should also be considered in CH4 models.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Arctic soils store vast amounts of frozen carbon that will thaw, fueling microbes that produce carbon dioxide and methane greenhouse gases. We compared methane producing and oxidizing activities in incubated soils and permafrost of Arctic tundra to improve estimates of net emissions. The methane oxidation profile in these soils differs from temperate ecosystems: maximum methane oxidation potential occurs in suboxic soils and permafrost layers, close to the methanogens that produce methane.
Arctic soils store vast amounts of frozen carbon that will thaw, fueling microbes that produce...