Small artificial waterbodies are widespread and persistent emitters of methane and carbon dioxide

Peacock, M.; Audet, J.; Bastviken, D.; Cook, S.; Evans, C.D. ORCID:; Grinham, A.; Holgerson, M.A.; Högbom, L.; Pickard, A.E.; Zieliński, P.; Futter, M.N.. 2021 Small artificial waterbodies are widespread and persistent emitters of methane and carbon dioxide. Global Change Biology, 27 (20). 5109-5123.

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Inland waters play an active role in the global carbon cycle and emit large volumes of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). A considerable body of research has improved emissions estimates from lakes, reservoirs and rivers but recent attention has been drawn to the importance of small, artificial waterbodies as poorly quantified but potentially important emission hotspots. Of particular interest are emissions from drainage ditches and constructed ponds. These waterbody types are prevalent in many landscapes and their cumulative surface areas can be substantial. Furthermore, GHG emissions from constructed waterbodies are anthropogenic in origin and form part of national emissions reporting, whereas emissions from natural waterbodies do not (according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines). Here, we present GHG data from two complementary studies covering a range of land uses. In the first, we measured emissions from nine ponds and seven ditches over a full year. Annual emissions varied considerably: 0.1–44.3 g CH4 m−2 year−1 and −36–4421 g CO2 m−2 year−1. In the second, we measured GHG concentrations in 96 ponds and 64 ditches across seven countries, covering subtropical, temperate and sub-arctic biomes. When CH4 emissions were converted to CO2 equivalents, 93% of waterbodies were GHG sources. In both studies, GHGs were positively related to nutrient status (C, N, P), and pond GHG concentrations were highest in smallest waterbodies. Ditch and pond emissions were larger per unit area when compared to equivalent natural systems (streams, natural ponds). We show that GHG emissions from natural systems should not be used as proxies for those from artificial waterbodies, and that artificial waterbodies have the potential to make a substantial but largely unquantified contribution to emissions from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use sector, and the global carbon cycle.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1354-1013
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: ditch, drainage, greenhouse gas, inland waters, pond, stream
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 06 Oct 2021 10:10 +0 (UTC)

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