Pathways and transformations of dissolved methane and dissolved inorganic carbon in Arctic tundra soils: Evidence from analysis of stable isotopes

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Heather Throckmorton1, George Perkins2, Jordan D Muss3, Lydia J Smith4, Mark E Conrad5, Margaret S Torn6, Jeffrey M Heikoop7, Brent D Newman7, Cathy Jean Wilson3 and Stan D Wullschleger8, (1)Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States, (2)Los Alamos National Laboratory, Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, MS D469, Los Alamos, NM, United States, (3)Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM, United States, (4)University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States, (5)Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, United States, (6)Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States, (7)LANL, Los Alamos, NM, United States, (8)Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, United States
Arctic soils contain a large pool of terrestrial C and are of great interest because of their potential for releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) to the atmosphere. Few attempts have been made, however, to derive quantitative budgets of CO2 and CH4 budgets for high-latitude ecosystems. Therefore, this study used naturally occurring geochemical and isotopic tracers to estimate production pathways and transformations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC = Σ (total) dissolved CO2) and dissolved CH4 in soil pore waters from 17 locations (drainages) in Barrow, Alaska (USA) in July and September, 2013; and to approximate a complete balance of belowground C cycling at our sampling locations. Results suggest that CH4 was primarily derived from biogenic acetate fermentation, with a shift at 4 locations from July to September towards CO2 reduction as the dominant methanogenic pathway. A large majority of CH4 produced at the frost table methane was transferred directly to the atmosphere via plant roots and ebullition (94.0 ± 1.4% and 96.6 ± 5.0% in July and September). A considerable fraction of the remaining CH4 was oxidized to CO2 during upward diffusion in July and September, respectively. Methane oxidization produced <1% of CO2 relative to alternative production mechanisms in deep subsurface pore waters. The majority of subsurface CO2 was produced from anaerobic respiration, likely due to reduction of Fe oxides and humics (52 ± 6 to 100 ± 13%, on average) while CO2 produced from methanogenesis accounted for the remainder (0 ± 13% to 47 ± 6%, on average) for July and September, respectively. Dissolved CH4 and dissolved CO2 concentrations correlated with thaw depth, suggesting that Arctic ecosystems will likely produce and release a greater amount of greenhouse gasses under projected warming and deepening of active layer thaw depth under future climate change scenarios.