Bringing methanotrophy in rivers out of the shadows

Shelley, Felicity and Ings, Nicola and Hildrew, Alan G. and Trimmer, Mark and Grey, Jonathan (2017) Bringing methanotrophy in rivers out of the shadows. Limnology and Oceanography, 62 (6). pp. 2345-2359. ISSN 0024-3590

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Methane oxidation produces biomass that is a potential source of particulate carbon for consumers, and is in addition to photosynthetic production. We assessed methanotrophy and photosynthetic production under differing conditions of light and methane concentration. We measured methane oxidation and photosynthesis in gravel sediments from adjacent shaded and unshaded stretches of 15 chalk rivers in southern England, and also in 30 artificial channels in which we manipulated light and methane experimentally. The capacity for methane oxidation was 78% higher in the shade than unshaded areas, indicating a denser, or more active, methanotrophic assemblage on shaded riverbeds, and the difference was most pronounced when methane concentration was high. Across the 15 rivers, methanotrophic production ranged from 16 to 650 nmol C cm−2 d−1 and net photosynthetic production from 256 to 35,750 nmol C cm−2 d−1. The relative importance of methanotrophy to their total production (i.e., photosynthetic and methanotrophic) increased with methane concentration and ranged from 0.1–2.4% and 0.2–13% in unshaded and shaded areas, respectively. Over an annual cycle in one river, the response of the methanotrophs in the shade to a high summer methane concentration was ∼ five times greater than in the open; in winter, there was no effect of shading on methane oxidation. The response of methanotrophy to shading and methane concentration in the artificial channels resembled that found in the rivers. Methanotrophy makes a non-negligible (here up to ∼ 13%) contribution to particulate carbon production in these streams, is disproportionately greater in the shade, and constitutes a distinct carbon pathway available for their food webs.

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Journal Article
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Limnology and Oceanography
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22 Jun 2019 09:06
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 02:09