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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Drivers and resilience of methane-derived carbon contribution to chironomid biomass in boreal lakes

Belle, Simon; Otsing, Eveli; Tammert, Helen; Kisand, Veljo


General mechanisms underlying the pathways of methane (CH4)-derived carbon in aquatic food webs are often associated with eutrophication-driven anoxia. Yet, the influence of changing nutrient availability on CH4 cycling has been mainly investigated during the increasing phase (i.e. onset of anthropogenic eutrophication), thus leaving unclear whether nutrient reduction can lead to a simple reversion of the observed effects on CH4 cycling. We combined stable isotopes of chironomid remains (delta 13CHC) and sedimentary ancient DNA of methanotrophic bacteria (MOB) to unravel the drivers of biogenic CH4 contribution to chironomid biomass in boreal lakes. Using a spatial dataset, our study shows that delta 13CHC values were more depleted in hypoxic lakes and were positively associated with methanotrophic bacteria belonging to the gamma-proteobacteria class (MOB type I), therefore supporting the view of higher utilization of CH4-derived carbon in anoxic environments. However, this space-for-time substitution approach failed to provide any reliable information on whether lake food webs follow the same pathway in forward and reverse directions. Using downcore reconstruction, our results show that despite a drastic mitigation-induced decrease in nutrient concentrations and strong evidence of biological recovery of algal and chironomid communities, chironomid biomass remained highly subsidized by methanotrophic bacteria throughout the study period. Results therefore suggest that mechanisms underlying the pathways of CH4-derived carbon in aquatic food webs are likely not the same during perturbation and recovery trajectories and that complex feedback mechanisms can stabilize lakes in this CH4-based food web state.


Lake food web; Chironomidae; Methane-oxidizing bacteria; Sedimentary ancient DNA; Carbon stable isotope; Paleolimnology

Published in

Aquatic Sciences - Research Across Boundaries
2024, Volume: 86, number: 1, article number: 22

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
    Environmental Sciences

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