Landscape analysis of methane flux across complex terrain
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes into and out of the soil are influenced by environmental conditions resulting in landscape-mediated patterns of spatial heterogeneity. The temporal variability of inputs (e.g. precipitation) and internal redistribution (e.g. groundwater flow) and dynamics (e.g. microbial communities) make predicating these fluxes challenging. Complex terrain can provide a laboratory for improving understanding of the spatial patterns, temporal dynamics, and drivers of trace gas flux rates, requisite to constraining current GHG budgets and future scenarios. Our research builds on previous carbon cycle research at the USFS Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, Little Belt Mountains, Montana that highlighted the relationships between landscape position and seasonal CO2 efflux, induced by the topographic redistribution of water. Spatial patterns and landscape scale mediation of CH4 fluxes in seasonally aerobic soils have not yet been elucidated. We measured soil methane concentrations and fluxes across a full range of landscape positions, leveraging topographic and seasonal gradients, to examine the relationships between environmental variables, hydrologic dynamics, and CH4 production and consumption. We determined that a threshold of ~30% VWC distinguished the direction of flux at individual time points, with the riparian area and uplands having distinct source/sink characteristics respectively. Riparian locations were either strong sources or fluctuated between sink and source behavior, resulting in near neutral seasonal flux. Upland sites however, exhibited significant relationships between sink strength and topographic/energy balance indices. Our results highlight spatial and temporal coherence to landscape scale heterogeneity of CH4 dynamics that can improve estimates of landscape scale CH4 balances and sensitivity to change.