skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 10:00 PM ET on Friday, December 8 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 9 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Effects of Using High Resolution Satellite‐Based Inundation Time Series to Estimate Methane Fluxes From Forested Wetlands

A major source of uncertainty in the global methane budget arises from quantifying the area of wetlands and other inland waters. This study addresses how the dynamics of surface water extent in forested wetlands affect the calculation of methane emissions. We used fine resolution satellite imagery acquired at sub‐weekly intervals together with a semiempirical methane emissions model to estimate daily surface water extent and diffusive methane fluxes for a low‐relief wetland‐rich watershed. Comparisons of surface water model predictions to field measurements showed agreement with the magnitude of changes in water extent, including for wetlands with surface area less than 1,000 m2. Results of methane emission models showed that wetlands smaller than 1 hectare (10,000 m2) were responsible for a majority of emissions, and that considering dynamic inundation of forested wetlands resulted in 49%–62% lower emission totals compared to models using a single estimate for each wetland’s size.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
1856200 1639145 1856560
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    While a stimulating effect of plant primary productivity on soil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has been well documented, links between gross primary productivity (GPP) and wetland methane (CH4) emissions are less well investigated. Determination of the influence of primary productivity on wetland CH4emissions (FCH4) is complicated by confounding influences of water table level and temperature on CH4production, which also vary seasonally. Here, we evaluate the link between preceding GPP and subsequent FCH4at two fens in Wisconsin using eddy covariance flux towers, Lost Creek (US‐Los) and Allequash Creek (US‐ALQ). Both wetlands are mosaics of forested and shrub wetlands, with US‐Los being larger in scale and having a more open canopy. Co‐located sites with multi‐year observations of flux, hydrology, and meteorology provide an opportunity to measure and compare lag effects on FCH4without interference due to differing climate. Daily average FCH4from US‐Los reached a maximum of 47.7 ηmol CH4m−2 s−1during the study period, while US‐ALQ was more than double at 117.9 ηmol CH4 m−2 s−1. The lagged influence of GPP on temperature‐normalized FCH4(Tair‐FCH4) was weaker and more delayed in a year with anomalously high precipitation than a following drier year at both sites. FCH4at US‐ALQ was lower coincident with higher stream discharge in the wet year (2019), potentially due to soil gas flushing during high precipitation events and lower water temperatures. Better understanding of the lagged influence of GPP on FCH4due to this study has implications for climate modeling and more accurate carbon budgeting.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Beaver engineering in the Arctic tundra induces hydrologic and geomorphic changes that are favorable to methane (CH4) production. Beaver-mediated methane emissions are driven by inundation of existing vegetation, conversion from lotic to lentic systems, accumulation of organic rich sediments, elevated water tables, anaerobic conditions, and thawing permafrost. Ground-based measurements of CH4emissions from beaver ponds in permafrost landscapes are scarce, but hyperspectral remote sensing data (AVIRIS-NG) permit mapping of ‘hotspots’ thought to represent locations of high CH4emission. We surveyed a 429.5 km2area in Northwestern Alaska using hyperspectral airborne imaging spectroscopy at ∼5 m pixel resolution (14.7 million observations) to examine spatial relationships between CH4hotspots and 118 beaver ponds. AVIRIS-NG CH4hotspots covered 0.539% (2.3 km2) of the study area, and were concentrated within 30 m of waterbodies. Comparing beaver ponds to all non-beaver waterbodies (including waterbodies >450 m from beaver-affected water), we found significantly greater CH4hotspot occurrences around beaver ponds, extending to a distance of 60 m. We found a 51% greater CH4hotspot occurrence ratio around beaver ponds relative to nearby non-beaver waterbodies. Dammed lake outlets showed no significant differences in CH4hotspot ratios compared to non-beaver lakes, likely due to little change in inundation extent. The enhancement in AVIRIS-NG CH4hotspots adjacent to beaver ponds is an example of a new disturbance regime, wrought by an ecosystem engineer, accelerating the effects of climate change in the Arctic. As beavers continue to expand into the Arctic and reshape lowland ecosystems, we expect continued wetland creation, permafrost thaw and alteration of the Arctic carbon cycle, as well as myriad physical and biological changes.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas with a warming potential 84 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20‐year period. Atmospheric CH4concentrations have been rising since the nineteenth century but the cause of large increases post‐2007 is disputed. Tropical wetlands are thought to account for ∼20% of global CH4emissions, but African tropical wetlands are understudied and their contribution is uncertain. In this work, we use the first airborne measurements of CH4sampled over three wetland areas in Zambia to derive emission fluxes. Three independent approaches to flux quantification from airborne measurements were used: Airborne mass balance, airborne eddy‐covariance, and an atmospheric inversion. Measured emissions (ranging from 5 to 28 mg m−2 hr−1) were found to be an order of magnitude greater than those simulated by land surface models (ranging from 0.6 to 3.9 mg m−2hr−1), suggesting much greater emissions from tropical wetlands than currently accounted for. The prevalence of such underestimated CH4sources may necessitate additional reductions in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below a threshold of 2°C above preindustrial levels.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Methane (CH4) release to the atmosphere from thawing permafrost contributes significantly to global CH4emissions. However, constraining the effects of thaw that control the production and emission of CH4is needed to anticipate future Arctic emissions. Here are presented robust rate measurements of CH4production and cycling in a region of rapidly degrading permafrost. Big Trail Lake, located in central Alaska, is a young, actively expanding thermokarst lake. The lake was investigated by taking two 1 m cores of sediment from different regions. Two independent methods of measuring microbial CH4 production, long term (CH4accumulation) and short term (14C tracer), produced similar average rates of 11 ± 3.5 and 9 ± 3.6 nmol cm−3 d−1, respectively. The rates had small variations between the different lithological units, indicating homogeneous CH4production despite heterogeneous lithology in the surface ~1 m of sediment. To estimate the total CH4production, the CH4production rates were multiplied through the 10–15 m deep talik (thaw bulb). This estimate suggests that CH4 production is higher than emission by a maximum factor of ~2, which is less than previous estimates. Stable and radioactive carbon isotope measurements showed that 50% of dissolved CH4in the first meter was produced further below. Interestingly, labeled14C incubations with 2‐14C acetate and14C CO2indicate that variations in the pathway used by microbes to produce CH4depends on the age and type of organic matter in the sediment, but did not appear to influence the rates at which CH4 was produced. This study demonstrates that at least half of the CH4produced by microbial breakdown of organic matter in actively expanding thermokarst is emitted to the atmosphere, and that the majority of this CH4is produced in the deep sediment.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Most peat domes in Southeast Asia are crisscrossed by networks of drainage canals. These canals are a potentially important source of methane to the atmosphere because the groundwater that discharges into them carries high concentrations of dissolved methane that is produced within peat. In this study, we present an isotope‐enabled numerical model that simulates transport, degassing, and oxidation of methane and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) along a drainage canal. We then estimate methane fluxes through a 5‐km canal that crosses a disturbed, forested, but undeveloped, peat dome in Brunei Darussalam by applying this model to field data: concentrations and stable carbon isotopic ratios of both methane and dissolved inorganic carbon from both peat porewater and canal water. We estimate that approximately 70% of the methane entering the canal is oxidized within the canal, 26% is degassed to the atmosphere, and 4% is transported toward the ocean, under low to moderate flow conditions. The flux of methane to the atmosphere is lowest at the maximum elevation of the canal, where flow is stagnant and methane concentrations are highest. Downstream, as flow velocity increases, methane emissions plateau even as methane concentrations decrease. The resulting methane emissions from the canal are large compared to emissions from the peat surface and vegetation on a per‐area basis. However, since the canal covers only a small portion of the catchment area, the canal may be a substantial but not dominant source of methane from the peatland.

    more » « less