Inland water sediments receive large quantities of terrestrial organic matter1,2,3,4,5 and are globally important sites for organic carbon preservation5,6. Sediment organic matter mineralization is positively related to temperature across a wide range of high-latitude ecosystems6,7,8,9,10, but the situation in the tropics remains unclear. Here we assessed temperature effects on the biological production of CO2 and CH4 in anaerobic sediments of tropical lakes in the Amazon and boreal lakes in Sweden. On the basis of conservative regional warming projections until 2100 (ref. 11), we estimate that sediment CO2 and CH4 production will increase 9–61% above present rates. Combining the CO2 and CH4 as CO2 equivalents (CO2eq; ref. 11), the predicted increase is 2.4–4.5 times higher in tropical than boreal sediments. Although the estimated lake area in low latitudes is 3.2 times smaller than that of the boreal zone, we estimate that the increase in gas production from tropical lake sediments would be on average 2.4 times higher for CO2 and 2.8 times higher for CH4. The exponential temperature response of organic matter mineralization, coupled with higher increases in the proportion of CH4 relative to CO2 on warming, suggests that the production of greenhouse gases in tropical sediments will increase substantially. This represents a potential large-scale positive feedback to climate change.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Nature Communications Open Access 18 August 2022
Nature Communications Open Access 13 July 2022
Scientific Reports Open Access 25 November 2020
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Cole, J. J., Caraco, N. F., Kling, G. W. & Kratz, T. K. Carbon-dioxide supersaturation in the surface waters of lakes. Science 265, 1568–1570 (1994).
Cole, J. J. et al. Plumbing the global carbon cycle: Integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon budget. Ecosystems 10, 171–184 (2007).
Duarte, C. M. & Prairie, Y. T. Prevalence of heterotrophy and atmospheric CO2 emissions from aquatic ecosystems. Ecosystems 8, 862–870 (2005).
Marotta, H., Duarte, C. M., Sobek, S. & Enrich-Prast, A. Large CO2 disequilibria in tropical lakes. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 23, GB4022 (2009).
Downing, J. A. et al. Sediment organic carbon burial in agriculturally eutrophic impoundments over the last century. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 22, GB1018 (2008).
Kortelainen, P., Pajunen, H., Rantakari, M. & Saarnisto, M. A large carbon pool and small sink in boreal Holocene lake sediments. Glob. Change Biol. 10, 1648–1653 (2004).
Zimov, S. A., Schuur, E. A. G. & Chapin, F. S. Permafrost and the global carbon budget. Science 312, 1612–1613 (2006).
Walter, K. M., Zimov, S. A., Chanton, J. P., Verbyla, D. & Chapin, F. S. Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming. Nature 443, 71–75 (2006).
Gudasz, C. et al. Temperature-controlled organic carbon mineralization in lake sediments. Nature 466, 478–483 (2010).
Bergström, I., Kortelainen, P., Sarvala, J. & Salonen, K. Effects of temperature and sediment properties on benthic CO2 production in an oligotrophic boreal lake. Freshw. Biol. 55, 1747–1757 (2010).
Solomon, S. et al. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
Lehner, B. & Doll, P. Development and validation of a global database of lakes, reservoirs and wetlands. J. Hydrol. 296, 1–22 (2004).
Molot, L. A. & Dillon, P. J. Storage of terrestrial carbon in boreal lake sediments and evasion to the atmosphere. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 10, 483–492 (1996).
Tranvik, L. J. et al. Lakes and reservoirs as regulators of carbon cycling and climate. Limnol. Oceanogr. 54, 2298–2314 (2009).
Bastviken, D., Tranvik, L. J., Downing, J. A., Crill, P. M. & Enrich-Prast, A. Freshwater methane emissions offset the continental carbon sink. Science 331 50 (2011).
Benoy, G., Cash, K., McCauley, E. & Wrona, F. Carbon dynamics in lakes of the boreal forest under a changing climate. Environ. Rev. 15, 175–189 (2007).
Marotta, H., Duarte, C. M., Pinho, L. & Enrich-Prast, A. Rainfall leads to increased pCO2 in Brazilian coastal lakes. Biogeosciences 7, 1607–1614 (2010).
Bastviken, D. et al. Methane emissions from Pantanal, South America, during the low water season: Toward more comprehensive sampling. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44, 5450–5455 (2010).
Sobek, S. et al. Organic carbon burial efficiency in lake sediments controlled by oxygen exposure time and sediment source. Limnol. Oceanogr. 54, 2243–2254 (2009).
Dillon, M. E., Wang, G. & Huey, R. B. Global metabolic impacts of recent climate warming. Nature 467, 704–706 (2010).
Bosatta, E. & Ågren, G. I. Soil organic matter quality interpreted thermodynamically. Soil Biol. Biochem. 31, 1889–1891 (1999).
Holland, E. A., Neff, J. C., Townsend, A. R. & McKeown, B. Uncertainties in the temperature sensitivity of decomposition in tropical and subtropical ecosystems: Implications for models. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 14, 1137–1151 (2000).
Conrad, R. et al. Stable carbon isotope discrimination and microbiology of methane formation in tropical anoxic lake sediments. Biogeosciences 8, 795–814 (2011).
Schulz, S. & Conrad, R. Influence of temperature on pathways to methane production in the permanently cold profundal sediment of Lake Constance. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 20, 1–14 (1996).
Nguyen, T. D., Crill, P. & Bastviken, D. Implications of temperature and sediment characteristics on methane formation and oxidation in lake sediments. Biogeochemistry 100, 185–196 (2010).
Melack, J. M. et al. Regionalization of methane emissions in the Amazon Basin with microwave remote sensing. Glob. Change Biol. 10, 530–544 (2004).
Whittaker, R. H. Communities and Ecosystems 2nd edn (Macmillan, 1975).
Marotta, H., Paiva, L. T. & Petrucio, M. M. Changes in thermal and oxygen stratification pattern coupled to CO2 outgassing persistence in two oligotrophic shallow lakes of the Atlantic Tropical Forest, Southeast Brazil. Limnology 10, 195–202 (2009).
R Core Team, R: A language and environment for statistical computing (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2012).
This research was supported by funds from STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education), The State of Rio de Janeiro Research Foundation (project E-26/110.276/2012) and the Brazilian National Council of Scientific Research (project 477131/2013-1). We thank J. Johansson (Uppsala University) for sampling and chemical analysis support and R. Conrad (Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology) for suggestions. A.E-P. also acknowledges financial support from CAPES/STINT (9341-11-0) and CNPq (projects 402502/2012-4; 476127/2013-0). H. Marotta is grateful for a post-doctoral fellowship from the Swedish Institute.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Marotta, H., Pinho, L., Gudasz, C. et al. Greenhouse gas production in low-latitude lake sediments responds strongly to warming. Nature Clim Change 4, 467–470 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2222
This article is cited by
Nature Climate Change (2023)
Nature Communications (2022)
Nature Communications (2022)
Co-occurrence of Aquatic Heatwaves with Atmospheric Heatwaves, Low Dissolved Oxygen, and Low pH Events in Estuarine Ecosystems
Estuaries and Coasts (2022)
Comparison of spatiotemporal carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus burial in two plateau lacustrine sediments: implication for N and P control
Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2022)