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Evidence for methane production by marine algae (Emiliana huxleyi) and its implication for the methane paradox in oxic waters

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Lenhart,  K.
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Keppler,  F.
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Lenhart, K., Klintzsch, T., Langer, G., Nehrke, G., Bunge, M., Schnell, S., et al. (2015). Evidence for methane production by marine algae (Emiliana huxleyi) and its implication for the methane paradox in oxic waters. Biogeosciences Discussions, 12, 20323-20360. doi:10.5194/bgd-12-20323-2015.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-3C99-A
Abstract
Methane (CH4), an important greenhouse gas that affects radiation balance and consequently the earth's climate, still has uncertainties in its sinks and sources. The world's oceans are considered to be a source of CH4 to the atmosphere, although the biogeochemical processes involved in its formation are not fully understood. Several recent studies provided strong evidence of CH4 production in oxic marine and freshwaters but its source is still a topic of debate. Studies of CH4 dynamics in surface waters of oceans and large lakes have concluded that pelagic CH4 supersaturation cannot be sustained either by lateral inputs from littoral or benthic inputs alone. However, frequently regional and temporal oversaturation of surface waters occurs. This comprises the observation of a CH4 oversaturating state within the surface mixed layer, sometimes also termed the "oceanic methane paradox". In this study we considered marine algae as a possible direct source of CH4. Therefore, the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi was grown under controlled laboratory conditions and supplemented with two 13C-labelled carbon substrates, namely bicarbonate and a position-specific 13C-labelled methionine (R-S-13CH3). The CH4 production was 0.7 μg POC g−1 d−1, or 30 ng g−1 POC h−1. After supplementation of the cultures with the 13C labelled substrate, the isotope label was observed in headspace-CH4. Moreover, the absence of methanogenic archaea within the algal culture and the oxic conditions during CH4 formation suggest that marine algae such as Emiliania huxleyi contribute to the observed spatial and temporal restricted CH4 oversaturation in ocean surface waters.