, Volume 138, Issue 2, pp 197–213 | Cite as

In situ CH4 oxidation inhibition and 13CH4 labeling reveal methane oxidation and emission patterns in a subarctic heath ecosystem

  • Emily Pickering PedersenEmail author
  • Anders Michelsen
  • Bo Elberling


Net methane (CH4) flux across the ecosystem-atmosphere boundary is governed by two counteracting processes, CH4 oxidation and production. Recent research on CH4 cycling has focused on net CH4 fluxes, however, the separate processes of CH4 oxidation and production may vary at local scales and respond differently to environmental change. Here, we separate CH4 oxidation and production, measured as emission, in situ using CH4 oxidation inhibition combined with a novel in situ 13CH4 labeling experiment to determine the rate of soil oxidation of atmospheric CH4. The study was conducted in a subarctic heath ecosystem with three characteristic plant community types: moist mixed species heath, dry Carex-dominated heath, and wet Eriophorum-dominated fen. We further explored the projected climate change effects of increased temperature and enhanced leaf litter input. The CH4 oxidation inhibition experiment revealed significant potential CH4 emission despite net CH4 uptake. Total CH4 oxidation and potential CH4 emission rates differed significantly between plant communities, demonstrating high local-scale variation in CH4 fluxes. Climate treatments did not affect CH4 oxidation rates, however, warming tended to increase potential CH4 emission, indicating that climate change may affect oxidation and production rates asymmetrically. Near-surface soil oxidation of atmospheric CH4 was successfully traced using 13C stable isotope labeling in situ. CH4 oxidation rates ranged widely, yet preliminarily suggested some degree of substrate limitation. Accounting for the local-scale variation in CH4 fluxes and the relative importance of the separate processes of CH4 oxidation and production will contribute importantly to predicting changes in landscape-scale CH4 budgets and climate feedbacks.


δ13Carbon isotope labeling CH4 oxidation Climate change Moist tundra Plant species composition 



Analysis of variance




Carex-dominated plant community


Carex-removal treatment




Carbon dioxide


Eriophorum-dominated plant community


Ecosystem respiration


Birch leaf litter addition


Mixed heath plant community


Ultra portable greenhouse gas analyser


Summer warming treatment with open-top chambers


Combination of summer warming and birch leaf litter addition



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Danish National Research Foundation (Center for Permafrost, CENPERM DNRF100). Many thanks to Abisko Scientific Research Station for kindly supplying long-term climate and meteorological data and for excellent facilities and logistical support. We would also like to thank journal editor R. K. Wieder as well as J. C. von Fischer and an anonymous reviewer for thorough review and very helpful feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript. The data supporting the conclusions of this study are provided in Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and in the supplementary material, including Figs. S1–S8, Tables S1–S2, and a spreadsheet file with the data used in the figures. Climate data for Abisko 1986–2015 are available at

Supplementary material

10533_2018_441_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1633 kb)
10533_2018_441_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (84 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 85 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Center for Permafrost (CENPERM)University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen ØDenmark

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