Fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane from diverse aquatic environments in an agricultural landscape
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 3:25 PM
The contribution of aquatic environments to landscape carbon cycling is particularly apparent in carbon- and water-rich regions. Such areas arguably represent an end member in terms of the relative significance of aquatic carbon cycling, while dry, carbon-poor zones are the likely opposing end member. Not surprisingly, most limnological attention has focused on these former regions, leaving open questions as to how aquatic systems in other locales influence larger-scale carbon dynamics. This includes human-dominated landscapes where agricultural and urban land uses can fundamentally alter carbon dynamics. Surveys of streams, ponds, and lakes in a southern Wisconsin landscape highlight three findings relevant to understanding the role of these aquatic systems in larger-scale carbon dynamics. First, streams and ponds had unexpectedly high summertime concentrations in and fluxes of CO2 and CH4. These values were approximately an order of magnitude greater than for less disturbed, forest and wetland-dominated landscapes in northern Wisconsin. Second, while mean C gas concentrations in lakes were lower than in streams and ponds, detailed spatial measurements demonstrate variability in surface water CO2 (43-1090 ppm pCO2) and CH4 (6-839 ppm pCH4) within a lake on a single day is similar to that observed among 25 streams included in our survey (260-6000 ppm pCO2; 50-600 ppm pCH4). This small-scale heterogeneity highlights a basic challenge for upscaling site-specific data collected at one or a few points to the whole lake and across lakes. Third, while agricultural and urban ecosystems are not necessarily carbon-rich environments, area-specific carbon storage in streams and ponds is substantial (up to 3000-5000 g C per m2). Further, carbon storage was strongly related to CH4 concentrations in streams, as C-rich sediments provided both an environment and substrate to fuel methanogenesis. The picture that emerges of C processing in aquatic environments throughout this human-dominated landscape is one of large C pools and fluxes and high spatial variability, suggesting that these land uses may be accelerating rates of aquatic C cycling and amplifying the role of these ecosystems in anthropogenic landscapes.