Methane in maritime Antarctic freshwater lakes

Methane was found to occur in all freshwater lakes, irrespective of trophic status, sampled during this preliminary investigation at Signy Island, South Orkney Islands, Antarctica. Methane accumulated in the water column of these lakes during the winter period when ice cover prevented wind-induced mixing. Maritime Antarctic lakes are usually subject to wind-induced complete mixing during the summer open-water period but two major exceptions to the rule were found during this study. Methanogenesis occurred in both littoral and profundal regions of oligotrophic Sombre Lake. The presence of a substantial algal mat stabilized the Eh status of underlying sediments at the littoral site. Methane production was confined to the sediments in both littoral and profundal sediments during the study period (December–March) but in winter probably migrated to the sediment surface at the profundal site. All Signy Island lakes sampled were sulphate-poor and addition of sulphate markedly inhibited methanogenesis. Radio-isotope studies indicated that the H2/CO2 pathway was probably the predominant route for methanogenesis in these sediments through the acetate pathway appeared equally important at the sediment surface. In the absence of sulphate, sulphate reducers probably acted as net hydrogen donors to the methanogens. The process rate was permanently limited by the consistent low temperature (annual range 1–3°C). Rates increased with increasing temperature over the range 4–32°C, but no evidence was found to suggest cold sensitivity or psychrophily. The optimum temperature for methanogenesis was in excess of 30°C, temperatures never experienced at Signy Island. Rates of methanogenesis during the study period (Dec–Mar) ranged from 0.29 to 0.45 mg of carbon m-2 and on an annual basis methanogenesis was calculated equivalent to 13% of the organic carbon deposition rate.


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Authors: Ellis-Evans, J. Cynan

1 January, 1984
Polar Biology / 3
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