Aerobic methane synthesis and dynamics in a river water environment


Reports of aerobic biogenic methane (CH4) have generated new views about CH4 sources in nature. We examine this phenomenon in the free-flowing Yellowstone river wherein CH4 concentrations were tracked as a function of environmental conditions, phototrophic microorganisms (using chlorophyll a, Chl a, as proxy), as well as targeted methylated amines known to be associated with this process. CH4 was positively correlated with temperature and Chl a, although diurnal measurements showed CH4 concentrations were greatest during the night and lowest during maximal solar irradiation. CH4 efflux from the river surface was greater in quiescent edge waters (71–94 μmol m−2 d) than from open flowing current (~ 57 μmol m−2 d). Attempts to increase flux by disturbing the benthic environment in the quiescent water directly below (~ 1.0 m deep) or at varying distances (0–5 m) upstream of the flux chamber failed to increase surface flux. Glycine betaine (GB), dimethylamine and methylamine (MMA) were observed throughout the summer-long study, increasing during a period coinciding with a marked decline in Chl a, suggesting a lytic event led to their release; however, this did not correspond to increased CH4 concentrations. Spiking river water with GB or MMA yielded significantly greater CH4 than nonspiked controls, illustrating the metabolic potential of the river microbiome. In summary, this study provides evidence that: (1) phototrophic microorganisms are involved in CH4 synthesis in a river environment; (2) the river microbiome possesses the metabolic potential to convert methylated amines to CH4; and (3) river CH4 concentrations are dynamic diurnally as well as during the summer active months.



aerobic methane, river water environment


Alowaifeer, A.M., Wang, Q., Bothner, B., Sibert, R.J., Joye, S.B. and McDermott, T.R. (2023), Aerobic methane synthesis and dynamics in a river water environment. Limnol Oceanogr.
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