A Caltech Library Service

Methane production controls in a young thermokarst lake formed by abrupt permafrost thaw

Pellerin, André and Lotem, Noam and Walter Anthony, Katey and Eliani Russak, Efrat and Hasson, Nicholas and Røy, Hans and Chanton, Jeffrey P. and Sivan, Orit (2022) Methane production controls in a young thermokarst lake formed by abrupt permafrost thaw. Global Change Biology, 28 (10). pp. 3206-3221. ISSN 1354-1013. doi:10.1111/gcb.16151.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

[img] MS Word - Supplemental Material
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

[img] MS Excel - Supplemental Material
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Methane (CH₄) release to the atmosphere from thawing permafrost contributes significantly to global CH₄ emissions. However, constraining the effects of thaw that control the production and emission of CH₄ is needed to anticipate future Arctic emissions. Here are presented robust rate measurements of CH₄ production and cycling in a region of rapidly degrading permafrost. Big Trail Lake, located in central Alaska, is a young, actively expanding thermokarst lake. The lake was investigated by taking two 1 m cores of sediment from different regions. Two independent methods of measuring microbial CH₄ production, long term (CH₄ accumulation) and short term (¹⁴C tracer), produced similar average rates of 11 ± 3.5 and 9 ± 3.6 nmol cm⁻³ d⁻¹, respectively. The rates had small variations between the different lithological units, indicating homogeneous CH₄ production despite heterogeneous lithology in the surface ~1 m of sediment. To estimate the total CH₄ production, the CH₄ production rates were multiplied through the 10–15 m deep talik (thaw bulb). This estimate suggests that CH4 production is higher than emission by a maximum factor of ~2, which is less than previous estimates. Stable and radioactive carbon isotope measurements showed that 50% of dissolved CH₄ in the first meter was produced further below. Interestingly, labeled ¹⁴C incubations with 2-¹⁴C acetate and ¹⁴C CO₂ indicate that variations in the pathway used by microbes to produce CH₄ depends on the age and type of organic matter in the sediment, but did not appear to influence the rates at which CH₄ was produced. This study demonstrates that at least half of the CH₄ produced by microbial breakdown of organic matter in actively expanding thermokarst is emitted to the atmosphere, and that the majority of this CH₄ is produced in the deep sediment.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Pellerin, André0000-0003-3588-8372
Lotem, Noam0000-0001-5079-7482
Walter Anthony, Katey0000-0003-2079-2896
Hasson, Nicholas0000-0003-2351-8358
Røy, Hans0000-0002-6477-3091
Chanton, Jeffrey P.0000-0002-3303-9708
Sivan, Orit0000-0002-0796-2291
Additional Information:© 2022 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. Issue Online: 13 April 2022; Version of Record online: 18 March 2022; Accepted manuscript online: 04 March 2022; Manuscript accepted: 11 February 2022; Manuscript revised: 21 December 2021; Manuscript received: 15 September 2021. We thank Valeria Boyko, Allen Bondurant, and Philip Hanke for assistance during field sampling. Chris Maio and Jennifer Guerard are acknowledged for assisting with the laboratory work performed in University of Alaska, Fairbanks. We also thank Bo Barker Jørgensen for insightful discussion on OM cycling in permafrost sediments. Kai Finster provided insightful comments which greatly improved the manuscript. We thank Sarah Murseli and the A.E. Lalonde AMS Laboratory for rapid and professional service. Shimon Feinstein and Eran Funaro are acknowledged for conducting TOC measurements. This research was funded by the ERC consolidator grant 84105 to OS. AP acknowledges support of the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program. NL acknowledges support of the Israel Water Authority. The NASA Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABOVE) NNN12AA01C and NNH18ZDA001N-TE and National Science Foundation NNA 2022561 supported N.H. and K.W.A. Data Availability Statement: The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in Figshare at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
European Research Council (ERC)84105
Zuckerman STEM Leadership ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Israel Water AuthorityUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Alaska; Arctic; emission; methane; methanogenesis; permafrost; stable isotopes; thermokarst
Issue or Number:10
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220304-60918000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Pellerin, A., Lotem, N., Walter Anthony, K., Eliani Russak, E., Hasson, N., Røy, H., Chanton, J. P., & Sivan, O. (2022). Methane production controls in a young thermokarst lake formed by abrupt permafrost thaw. Global Change Biology, 28, 3206–3221.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:113757
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:07 Mar 2022 19:53
Last Modified:19 Apr 2022 17:39

Repository Staff Only: item control page