Using radon to quantify groundwater discharge and methane fluxes to a shallow, tundra lake on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

Dabrowski, Jessica S., Charette, Matthew A., Mann, Paul, Ludwig, Sarah M., Natali, Susan M., Holmes, Robert Max, Schade, John D., Powell, Margaret and Henderson, Paul B. (2020) Using radon to quantify groundwater discharge and methane fluxes to a shallow, tundra lake on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Biogeochemistry, 148 (1). pp. 69-89. ISSN 0168-2563

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Northern lakes are a source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and contribute substantially to the global carbon budget. However, the sources of methane (CH4) to northern lakes are poorly constrained limiting our ability to the assess impacts of future Arctic change. Here we present measurements of the natural groundwater tracer, radon, and CH4 in a shallow lake on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, AK and quantify groundwater discharge rates and fluxes of groundwater-derived CH4. We found that groundwater was significantly enriched (2000%) in radon and CH4 relative to lake water. Using a mass balance approach, we calculated average groundwater fluxes of 1.2 ± 0.6 and 4.3 ± 2.0 cm day−1, respectively as conservative and upper limit estimates. Groundwater CH4 fluxes were 7—24 mmol m−2 day−1 and significantly exceeded diffusive air–water CH4 fluxes (1.3–2.3 mmol m−2 day−1) from the lake to the atmosphere, suggesting that groundwater is an important source of CH4 to Arctic lakes and may drive observed CH4 emissions. Isotopic signatures of CH4 were depleted in groundwaters, consistent with microbial production. Higher methane concentrations in groundwater compared to other high latitude lakes were likely the source of the comparatively higher CH4 diffusive fluxes, as compared to those reported previously in high latitude lakes. These findings indicate that deltaic lakes across warmer permafrost regions may act as important hotspots for CH4 release across Arctic landscapes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Radon-222, Methane, Tundra, Groundwater, Wetland, Subarctic
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2020 16:37
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 14:52

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