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Mechanisms of methane bubble formation, storage and release in freshwater sediments

  • Lakes and reservoirs are important sources of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Although freshwaters cover only a small fraction of the global surface, their contribution to global methane emission is significant and this is expected to increase, as a positive feedback to climate warming and exacerbated eutrophication. Yet, global estimates of methane emission from freshwaters are often based on point measurements that are spatio-temporally biased. To better constrain the uncertainties in quantifying methane fluxes from inland waters, a closer examination of the processes transporting methane from sediment to atmosphere is necessary. Among these processes, ebullition (bubbling) is an important transport pathway and is a primary source of uncertainty in quantifying methane emissions from freshwaters. This thesis aims to improve our understanding of ebullition in freshwaters by studying the processes of methane bubble formation, storage and release in aquatic sediments. The laboratory experiments demonstrate that aquatic sediments can store up to ~20% (volumetric content) gas and the storage capacity varies with sediment properties. The methane produced is stored as gas bubbles in sediment with minimal ebullition until the storage capacity is reached. Once the sediment void spaces are created by gas bubble formation, they are stable and available for future bubble storage and transport. Controlled water level drawdown experiments showed that the amounts of gas released from the sediment scaled with the total volume of sediment gas storage and correlated linearly to the drop in hydrostatic pressure. It was hypothesized that not only the timing of ebullition is controlled by sediment gas storage, but also the spatial distribution of ebullition. A newly developed freeze corer, capable of characterizing sediment gas content under in situ environments, enabled the possibility to test the hypothesis in a large subtropical lake (Lake Kinneret, Israel). The results showed that gas content was variable both vertically and horizontally in the lake sediment. Sediment methane production rate and sediment characteristics could explain these variabilities. The spatial distribution of ebullition generally was in a good agreement with the horizontal distribution of depth-averaged (surface 1 m) sediment gas content. While discrepancies were found between sediment depth-integrated methane production and the snapshot ebullition rate, they were consistent in a long term (multiyear average). These findings provide a solid basis for the future development of a process-based ebullition model. By coupling a sediment transport model with a sediment diagenetic model, general patterns of ebullition hotspots can be predicted at a system level and the uncertainties in ebullition flux measurements can be better constrained both on long-term (months to years) and short-term (minutes to hours) scales.

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Author:Liu Liu
Referee:Andreas Lorke, Daniel McGinnis, Sebastian Sobek
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2019/01/29
Date of publication:2019/01/30
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Landau, Fachbereich 7
Date of final exam:2019/01/25
Release Date:2019/01/30
Tag:Ebullition; Gas storage capacity; Lake Kinneret
Number of pages:97
Institutes:Fachbereich 7 / Institut für Umweltwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 50 Naturwissenschaften / 500 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik
BKL-Classification:43 Umweltforschung, Umweltschutz / 43.00 Umweltforschung, Umweltschutz: Allgemeines
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG