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Synergy between nutrients and warming enhances methane ebullition from experimental lakes

Abstract

Lakes and ponds are important natural sources of the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4), with small shallow waters identified as particular hotspots1,2. Ebullition (bubbles) of CH4 makes up a large proportion of total CH4 flux3,4. However, difficulty measuring such episodic events5 makes prediction of how ebullition responds to nutrient enrichment and rising temperatures challenging. Here, the world’s longest running, mesocosm-based, shallow lake climate change experiment was used to investigate how the combination of warming and eutrophication (that is, nutrient enrichment) affects CH4 ebullition. Eutrophication without heating increased the relative contribution of ebullition from 51% to 75%. More strikingly the combination of nutrient enrichment and experimental warming treatments of +2–3 °C and +4–5 °C had a synergistic effect, increasing mean annual ebullition by at least 1900 mg CH4-C m−2 yr−1. In contrast, diffusive flux showed no response to eutrophication and only a small increase at higher temperatures (average 63 mg CH4–C m−2 yr−1). As shallow lakes are the most common lake type globally, abundant in highly climate sensitive regions6 and most vulnerable to eutrophication, these results suggest their current and future contributions to atmospheric CH4 concentrations may be significantly underestimated.

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Fig. 1: Seasonal variation of diffusive and ebullitive methane flux measured over a year across the experimental treatments.
Fig. 2: Total annual CH4 flux per experimental treatment and total annual ebullition against plant abundance and cover.

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Acknowledgements

The facility where this work was carried out was supported by the MARS (Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress) funded under the 7th EU Framework Programme, Theme 6 (Environment including Climate Change), Contract No. 603378 (http://www.mars-project.eu), AQUACOSM (Network of Leading European AQUAtic MesoCOSM Facilities Connecting Mountains to Oceans from the Arctic to the Mediterranean) and PROGNOS (Predicting in-lake RespOnses to chanGe using Near real time MOdelS- Water joint programme initiative) and ANAEE (anaee.dk). We would also like to thank the Carlsbergfondet for support to E.J. and T.A.D. J.A. was supported by FORMAS (grant 2015-1559), J.S. by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship (660655) and the Academy of Finland (project 296918). We are grateful to Dorte Nedergaard for the skilled GC analyses.

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T.A.D. designed the study, collected the data, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. J.A. calculated the fluxes, E.J., J.A. and J.S. commented on the manuscript. F.L.A., T.L.L. and M.S. are key members of the group that supports the long-running mesocosm experiment.

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Correspondence to Thomas A. Davidson.

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Davidson, T.A., Audet, J., Jeppesen, E. et al. Synergy between nutrients and warming enhances methane ebullition from experimental lakes. Nature Clim Change 8, 156–160 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-017-0063-z

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