Spatial and Temporal Variability of Methane Mole Fractions and Exchanges in and Between Soil, Snow, and the Atmosphere in a Tundra System in Northern Alaska

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Yannick Agnan1, Daniel Obrist1, Grant C Edwards2, Chris Moore1, Christine Hedge1, Detlev Helmig3, Dominique Paxton3 and Hueber Jacques3, (1)Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV, United States, (2)Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, (3)University of Colorado at Boulder, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Boulder, CO, United States
An important global source of atmospheric methane (CH4) is production in tundra soils (an important global source). To place constraints on the potential role that tundra soils play in global CH4 cycling, we have been continuously measuring mole the air space in soils, snow, and the atmosphere as gradient-based surface-atmosphere fluxes for arctic tundra at Toolik Field Station (68° 38' N) starting in October 2014. We have found that atmospheric CH4 mole fractions were, on average, relatively constant during the first 9 months of sampling (averaging 1.93 µmol mol−1), with pronounced diel patterns starting in May and nighttime exceeding daytime mole fractions. However, gradients measured within the soil profile showed high variability in air withdrawn from different locations of these tundra soils (Typic Aquiturbels), with one soil profile indicating a CH4 sink during fall until January; mole fractions were similar to the atmospheric measurements during winter indicating no source or sink (average 1.89 µmol mol−1). A second soil profile 5 m away showed production of CH4 (average 2.48 µmol mol−1, two-times higher than atmospheric levels), even during mid-winter when soil temperatures were below −10 °C. Measurements of CH4 in interstitial snowpack air also exhibited a similar combination of sources and sinks. We used micrometeorological gradient surface flux measurements to confirm that the area was a net source of CH4 in fall, winter, and spring, with emissions averaging 26.6, 25.2, and 16.8 mg m−2 d−1, respectively. In the summer months, we saw strong diel flux patterns with deposition during day and emission at night, corresponding with observed diel variability in CH4 snowpack mole fractions. Our results indicated a high variability of tundra landscape CH4 fluxes, which locally shift from sources to sinks with high temporal variability. CH4 oxidation by methanotrophic bacteria probably occurs in tundra soils, confirming observations in one soil, snowpack, and the atmosphere during spring, but oxidation ceased during the coldest months. In close proximity, we suggest a CH4 production by methanogenic archaea, and surprisingly this production continued throughout winter even during the coldest periods showing little temperature dependence.