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Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences








Using an isotope-mass balance approach and assuming the equimolar production of CO2 and CH4 from methanogenesis (e.g., anaerobic decomposition of cellulose), we calculate that the proportion of total CO2 production from methanogenesis varies from 37 to 83% across a variety of northern peatlands. In a relative sense, methanogenesis was a more important pathway for decomposition in bogs (80 ± 13% of CO2 production) than in fens (64 ± 5.7% of CO2 production), but because fens contain more labile substrates they may support higher CH4 production overall. The concentration of CO2 produced from methanogenesis (CO2-meth) can be considered equivalent to CH4 concentration before loss due to ebullition, plant-mediated transport, or diffusion. Bogs produced slightly less CO2-meth than fens (2.9 ±1.3 and 3.7 ±1.4mmol/L, respectively). Comparing the quantity of CH4 present to CO2-meth, fens lost slightly more CH4 than bogs (89 ± 2.8% and 82 ± 5.3%, respectively) likely due to the presence of vascular plant roots. In collapsed permafrost wetlands, bog moats produced half the amount of CO2-meth (0.8 ± 0.2mmol/L) relative to midbogs (1.6 ± 0.6mmol/L) and methanogenesis was less important (42 ± 6.6% of total CO2 production relative to 55 ± 8.1%). We hypothesize that the lower methane production potential in collapsed permafrost wetlands occurs because recently thawed organic substrates are being first exposed to the initial phases of anaerobic decomposition following collapse and flooding. Bog moats lost a comparable amount of CH4 as midbogs (63 ± 7.0% and 64 ± 9.3%).

Original Publication Citation

Corbett, J.E., Tfaily, M.M., Burdige, D.J., Glaser, P.H., & Chanton, J.P. (2015). The relative importance of methanogenesis in the decomposition of organic matter in northern peatlands. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, 120(2), 280-293. doi: 10.1002/2014jg002797