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Net regional methane sink in High Arctic soils of northeast Greenland

Nature Geoscience volume 8, pages 2023 (2015) | Download Citation


Arctic tundra soils serve as potentially important but poorly understood sinks of atmospheric methane (CH4), a powerful greenhouse gas1,2,3,4,5. Numerical simulations project a net increase in methane consumption in soils in high northern latitudes as a consequence of warming in the past few decades3,6. Advances have been made in quantifying hotspots of methane emissions in Arctic wetlands7,8,9,10,11,12,13, but the drivers, magnitude, timing and location of methane consumption rates in High Arctic ecosystems are unclear. Here, we present measurements of rates of methane consumption in different vegetation types within the Zackenberg Valley in northeast Greenland over a full growing season. Field measurements show methane uptake in all non-water-saturated landforms studied, with seasonal averages of − 8.3 ± 3.7 μmol CH4 m−2 h−1 in dry tundra and − 3.1 ± 1.6 μmol CH4 m−2 h−1 in moist tundra. The fluxes were sensitive to temperature, with methane uptake increasing with increasing temperatures. We extrapolate our measurements and published measurements from wetlands with the help of remote-sensing land-cover classification using nine Landsat scenes. We conclude that the ice-free area of northeast Greenland acts as a net sink of atmospheric methane, and suggest that this sink will probably be enhanced under future warmer climatic conditions.

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We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Danish National Research Foundation (CENPERM DNRF100), the European Union FP7—ENVIRONMENT project PAGE21 under contract no. GA282700, the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building and the Zackenberg Research Station. Special thanks to P. Christiansen and J. Gammeltoft for constructing the thermoblock incubator and to M. R. Cruz and M. Wahlgren for assistance in the laboratory.

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  1. Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10 DK-1350 Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Christian Juncher Jørgensen
    • , Katrine Maria Lund Johansen
    • , Andreas Westergaard-Nielsen
    •  & Bo Elberling


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B.E. and C.J.J. designed the study. K.M.L.J., C.J.J. and B.E. performed the field work. C.J.J. performed the laboratory experiments. A.W-N. performed the remote-sensing classification and analysis. C.J.J. and B.E. wrote the paper with contributions from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bo Elberling.

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