Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Methane flux in the Great Dismal Swamp


Methane is an important component of the biogeochemical cycle of carbon with potentially critical roles in both atmospheric chemical and radiation transfer processes1–4. Limited evidence is available which suggests an increase in global tropospheric methane during the last decade5,6. To understand and assess the possibility and implications of temporal variations in atmospheric methane requires improved quantitative knowledge of methane sources and sinks. We report here methane flux measurements made over a 17-month period in the Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia. These flux measurements indicate that Great Dismal Swamp soils can act as both a source and sink for atmospheric methane. In a waterlogged condition, swamp soils are a net source of methane to the atmosphere with seasonal variations in emission rates from <0.001 to 0.02 g CH4 m−2 day−1. During drought conditions, swamp soils consume atmospheric methane at rates of <0.001 to 0.005 g CH4 m−2 day−1. While these results should not be extrapolated to all swamp soils, they illustrate the potential complexity of processes which regulate net flux of methane between wetland soils and the atmosphere.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Crutzen, P. J. in Physics and Chemistry of Upper Atmospheres (ed. McCormac, B. M.) 110 (Reidel, New York, 1973).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Emhalt, D. H. & Schmidt, U. Pure appl. Geophys. 116, 452–464 (1978).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Wofsy, S. C. A. Rev. Earth planet. Sci. 4, 441–469 (1976).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Sze, N. D. Science 195, 673–674 (1977).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Gradel, T. E. & McRae, J. E. Geophys. Res. Lett. 7, 977–979 (1980).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Rasmussen, R. A. & Khalil, M. A. K. J. geophys. Res. 86, 9826–9832 (1981).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Koyama, T. J. geophys. Res. 68, 3971–3973 (1963).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Mah, R. A., Ward, D. M., Baresi, L. & Glass, T. L. A. Rev. Microbiol. 31, 309–340 (1977).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Zeikus, J. G. Bacter. Rev. 41, 514–541 (1977).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Atkinson, L. P. & Hall, J. R. Estuar. Coast. mar. Sci. 4, 677–686 (1976).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Martens, C. S. & Berner, R. A. Science 185, 1167–1169 (1974).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Swain, F. M. Adv. org. Geochem. 1, 673–687 (1973).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Baker-Blocker, A., Donahue, T. M. & Mancy, K. H. Tellus 29, 245–250 (1977).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Sebacher, D. I. & Harriss, R. C. J. envir. Qual. 11, 34–37 (1982).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Whitehead, D. R. Ecol. Monogr. 42, 301–315 (1972).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Carter, V., Garrett, M. K., Shima, L. & Gammon, P. Wat. Res. Bull. 13, 1–12 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Day, F. P. & Dabel, C. V. Vac. J. Sci. 29, 220–224 (1978).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Dabel, C. V. & Day, F. P. Bull. Torrey bot. Club 104, 352–360 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Day, F. P. Am. Mid. Nat. 102, 281–289 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Oosting, H. J. The Study of Plant Communities (Freeman, San Francisco, 1956).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Gosink, T. A. & Kelley, J. J. J. geophys. Res. 84, 7041 (1979).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Harriss, R. C. & Sebacher, D. I. Geophys. Res. Lett. 8, 1002–1004 (1981).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Cicerone, R. J. & Shetter, J. D. J. geophys. Res. 86, 7203–7209 (1981).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Harriss, R. C., Sebacher, D. I., Bartlett, K. D. & Bartlett, D. S. Proc. Sym. Comp. Nonurban Troposphere, (American Meteorological Society, in the press).

  25. Dacey, J. W. H. & Klug, M. J. Science 203, 1253–1255 (1979).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Kelly, C. A. & Chynoweth, D. P. Limnol. Oceanogr. 26, 891–897 (1981).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Rudd, J. W. M. & Hamilton, R. D. Limnol. Oceanogr. 23, 337–348 (1978).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Sansone, F. J. & Martens, C. S. Limnol. Oceanogr. 23, 349–355 (1978).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Barber, L. E. & Ensign, J. C. Geomicrobial J. 1, 341–345 (1979).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Fallon, R. D., Harrits, S., Hanson, R. S. & Brock, T. D. Limnol. Oceanogr. 25, 357–360 (1980).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. Harrits, S. M. & Hanson, R. S. Limnol. Oceanogr. 25, 412–421 (1980).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. Whittenbury, R. H., Dalton, R. H., Eccleston, M. & Reed, H. L. in Proc. Congr. on Microbial Growth in C1 Compounds 1–9 (1974).

    Google Scholar 

  33. Ehhalt, D. H. & Heidt, L. E. J. geophys. Res. 18, 5265–5271 (1973).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Harriss, R., Sebacher, D. & Day, F. Methane flux in the Great Dismal Swamp. Nature 297, 673–674 (1982).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing