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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Spatial and Seasonal Variations in Dissolved Methane Across a Large Lake

Peacock, Mike; Davidson, Scott J.; Kothawala, Dolly N.; Segersten, Joel; Futter, Martyn N.


Lakes process large volumes of organic carbon (OC), are important sources of methane (CH4), and contribute to climatic warming. However, there is a lack of data from large lakes >500 km(2), which creates uncertainty in global budgets. In this data article, we present dissolved CH4, OC bioreactivity measurements, water chemistry, and algal biovolumes at 11 stations across Lake Malaren, the third largest (1,074 km(2)) Swedish lake. Total phosphorus concentrations show that during the study period the lake was classed as mesotrophic/eutrophic. Overall mean CH4 concentration from all stations, sampled five times to cover seasonal variation, was 2.51 mu g l(-1) (0.98-5.39 mu g l(-1)). There was no significant seasonal variation although ranges were greatest during summer. Concentrations of CH4 were greatest in shallow waters close to anthropogenic nutrient sources, whilst deeper, central basins had lower concentrations. Methane correlated positively with measures of lake productivity (chlorophyll a, total phosphorus), and negatively to water depth and oxygen concentration, with oxygen emerging as the sole significant driver in a linear mixed effects model. We collated data from other lakes >500 km(2) (n = 21) and found a significant negative relationship between surface area and average CH4 concentration. Large lakes remain an understudied contributor to the global CH4 cycle and future research efforts should aim to quantify the spatial and temporal variation in their diffusive and ebullitive emissions, and associated drivers.Plain Language Summary Lakes contribute to climatic warming, because they emit large amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. This occurs because lake bottom sediments and lake waters are home to microbes that produce methane, which then travels diffusively in a dissolved form, or as bubbles, through the lake water and into the air. There is large uncertainty about how much methane is released by lakes on a global scale, and more measurements are required to reduce this uncertainty, particularly from very large lakes. In our study, we measured dissolved methane from 11 sampling locations across a very large Swedish lake, and repeated this five times over a year. Levels of methane within the lake were generally low, but they varied over space and time. Higher methane levels occurred in shallower waters near large towns and cities, and were associated with greater concentrations of nutrients such as phosphorus, which act as food for the methane-producing microbes.


phosphorus; methane; Europe; climate change; eutrophication; greenhouse gas

Published in

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
2023, Volume: 128, number: 8, article number: e2023JG007668