Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-25-2018

Abstract

Relationships between methane (CH4) fluxes and environmental conditions have been extensively explored in saturated soils, while research has been less prevalent in aerated soils because of the relatively small magnitudes of CH4 fluxes that occur in dry soils. Our study builds on previous carbon cycle research at Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest, Montana, to identify how environmental conditions reflected by topographic metrics can be leveraged to estimate watershed scale CH4 fluxes from point scale measurements. Here, we measured soil CH4 concentrations and fluxes across a range of landscape positions (7 riparian, 25 upland), utilizing topographic and seasonal (29 May–12 September) gradients to examine the relationships between environmental variables, hydrologic dynamics, and CH4 emission and uptake. Riparian areas emitted small fluxes of CH4 throughout the study (median: 0.186 µg CH4–C m−2 h−1) and uplands increased in sink strength with dry-down of the watershed (median: −22.9 µg CH4–C m−2 h−1). Locations with volumetric water content (VWC) below 38 % were methane sinks, and uptake increased with decreasing VWC. Above 43 % VWC, net CH4 efflux occurred, and at intermediate VWC net fluxes were near zero. Riparian sites had near-neutral cumulative seasonal flux, and cumulative uptake of CH4 in the uplands was significantly related to topographic indices. These relationships were used to model the net seasonal CH4 flux of the upper Stringer Creek watershed (−1.75 kg CH4–C ha−1). This spatially distributed estimate was 111 % larger than that obtained by simply extrapolating the mean CH4 flux to the entire watershed area. Our results highlight the importance of quantifying the space–time variability of net CH4 fluxes as predicted by the frequency distribution of landscape positions when assessing watershed scale greenhouse gas balances.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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