Climate-driven shifts in sediment chemistry enhance methane production in northern lakes


Freshwater ecosystems are a major source of methane (CH 4), contributing 0.65 Pg (in CO 2 equivalents) yr- 1 towards global carbon emissions and offsetting~ 25% of the terrestrial carbon sink. Most freshwater CH 4 emissions come from littoral sediments, where large quantities of plant material are decomposed. Climate change is predicted to shift plant community composition, and thus change the quality of inputs into detrital food webs, with the potential to affect CH 4 production. Here we find that variation in phenol availability from decomposing organic matter underlies large differences in CH 4 production in lake sediments. Production is at least 400-times higher from sediments composed of macrophyte litter compared to terrestrial sources because of inhibition of methanogenesis by phenol leachates. Our results now suggest that earth system models and carbon budgets should consider the effects of plant …

Nature communications
Erik Emilson
Erik Emilson
Research Scientist, Watershed Ecology Team Lead, Associate Editor CJFR

I am interested in how forests support freshwater ecosystem services. My research combines microbial and molecular approaches to undertand how forest productivity and disturbances affect ecosystem functions in headwater streams and lakes.