Methane oxidation and emission in Lake Lugano (Southern Switzerland) : a lipid biomarker and isotopic approach

Blees, Hendrik Jan Reynier. Methane oxidation and emission in Lake Lugano (Southern Switzerland) : a lipid biomarker and isotopic approach. 2015, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Science.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_11212

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Methane is an important greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere. The sources of atmospheric methane are largely biogenic, being produced under anoxic conditions by methanogenic Archaea. Wetlands, which include lakes, are important contributors to the atmospheric methane budget, since they commonly feature anoxic sediments or bottom water. Methane oxidising bacteria at the interface between oxic and anoxic sediments and water limit the efflux of methane. Furthermore, in the oceans, methane is oxidised anaerobically by Archaea, in a process coupled to sulfate reduction. In freshwater environments, where sulfate concentrations are orders of magnitude lower, this process is not thermodynamically favourable, and archaeal anaerobic oxidation of methane is often absent. It has been proposed in certain lake environments, however, that anaerobic oxidation of methane does take place.
One lake in which anaerobic oxidation of methane was proposed is the northern basin of Lake Lugano, southern Switzerland. Anaerobic oxidation of methane in this basin is explored in chapter 2 of this PhD thesis. Indeed we found methane concentration and carbon isotopic composition profiles characteristic of methane oxidation in the anoxic hypolimnion, more than 30 m below the interface between the oxic and anoxic waters. In addition, microbial biomass at these depths showed carbon isotope signatures of methane-derived carbon (d13C-values as low as -70‰ in C16:1 fatty acids), indicating that methane is used as a carbon source. However, no methane oxidation took place in incubation experiments under anoxic conditions. Addition of alternative potential electron acceptors did not stimulate methane oxidation, and methane oxidation was only observed in the presence of oxygen. Instead, we propose that episodic introduction of oxygenated water into the anoxic hypolimnion sustains a community of aerobic methanotrophs.
Carbon derived from methane oxidation has been shown in several studies to constitute an important carbon input to aquatic ecosystems. In the studies reported in chapters 2 and 3, compound specific stable carbon isotope analysis of lipid biomarkers was used to trace methane-derived carbon through the ecosystems at redox interfaces and in the anoxic hypolimnion of Lake Lugano. In the monomictic southern basin (chapter 3), an anoxic benthic nepheloid layer develops during the period of water column stratification. This layer was found to be derived from microbial production in the hypolimnion. Methane oxidising bacteria constituted up to 30% of total microbial cell numbers in the nepheloid layer, and 77% to 96% of the organic carbon in this layer was methane-derived. High rates of aerobic methane oxidation at the top of the anoxic nepheloid layer led to an oxygen consumption that was greater than the downward diffusion, causing the anoxic nepheloid layer to expand. Bacterial aerobic methanotrophs migrate upwards through the water column with the interface between the oxic hypolimnion and the anoxic nepheloid layer.
The extent of emission of methane to the atmosphere depends on the totality of sinks and sources in the lake basin. In both the northern and the southern basin of Lake Lugano, large amounts of methane are emitted from the sediments into the bottom water. However, consumption by aerobic methanotrophs at the oxic-anoxic redoxcline is near complete, and during stratified conditions, no methane escapes to the epilimnion. On the other hand, methane super-saturation in the surface water was observed throughout the year. Chapter 4 describes the results of three mapping campaigns of surface water methane concentrations in the northern basin of Lake Lugano, in spring and autumn. Additionally, methane concentration and carbon isotopic composition were measured on depth profiles down to 40 m depth in transects across the lake basin. Methane fluxes to the atmosphere were calculated from surface water concentration and wind speed. At a standardised wind speed of 1.6 m s-1 (average wind speed during the period from May until October) fluxes to the atmosphere were significantly higher in autumn (44 and 97 micromol m-2 d-1 in October 2011 and October 2012, respectively) than in spring (7 micromol m-2 d-1, May 2012). This difference is in part due to higher concentrations in autumn than in spring, and in part a result of a stronger dependence of the transfer velocity on buoyancy flux when the surface water cools. The source of methane in the surface water could not be determined with certainty. It is possible that internal waves at the thermocline induce friction at the sediment-water interface in the littoral zone, which leads to increased outgassing of sedimentary methane. However, the northern basin of Lake Lugano has steep shores along large parts of the basin, which offer little space for deposition of sediments, and the possibility of in situ production of methane in the water column must be considered.
Advisors:Lehmann, Moritz F.
Committee Members:Eglinton, Tim I.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Geochemie Stoffkreisläufe (Lehmann)
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:11212
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:155 p.
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:23 Feb 2018 13:56
Deposited On:23 Apr 2015 12:21

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