Biogeochemical and physical controls on methane fluxes from two ferruginous meromictic lakes

Nicholas Lambrecht, Sergei Katsev, Chad Wittkop, Steven J. Hall, Cody S. Sheik, Aude Picard, Mojtaba Fakhraee, Elizabeth D. Swanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Meromictic lakes with anoxic bottom waters often have active methane cycles whereby methane is generally produced biogenically under anoxic conditions and oxidized in oxic surface waters prior to reaching the atmosphere. Lakes that contain dissolved ferrous iron in their deep waters (i.e., ferruginous) are rare, but valuable, as geochemical analogues of the conditions that dominated the Earth's oceans during the Precambrian when interactions between the iron and methane cycles could have shaped the greenhouse regulation of the planet's climate. Here, we explored controls on the methane fluxes from Brownie Lake and Canyon Lake, two ferruginous meromictic lakes that contain similar concentrations (max. >1 mM) of dissolved methane in their bottom waters. The order Methanobacteriales was the dominant methanogen detected in both lakes. At Brownie Lake, methanogen abundance, an increase in methane concentration with respect to depths closer to the sediment, and isotopic data suggest methanogenesis is an active process in the anoxic water column. At Canyon Lake, methanogenesis occurred primarily in the sediment. The most abundant aerobic methane-oxidizing bacteria present in both water columns were associated with the Gammaproteobacteria, with little evidence of anaerobic methane oxidizing organisms being present or active. Direct measurements at the surface revealed a methane flux from Brownie Lake that was two orders of magnitude greater than the flux from Canyon Lake. Comparison of measured versus calculated turbulent diffusive fluxes indicates that most of the methane flux at Brownie Lake was non-diffusive. Although the turbulent diffusive methane flux at Canyon Lake was attenuated by methane oxidizing bacteria, dissolved methane was detected in the epilimnion, suggestive of lateral transport of methane from littoral sediments. These results highlight the importance of direct measurements in estimating the total methane flux from water columns, and that non-diffusive transport of methane may be important to consider from other ferruginous systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-69
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank W. Huang for analyzing methane samples, J. Flater and J. Choi for help performing 16S analysis in R, and A. Grengs, D. Widman, G. Ledesma, T. Leung, P. Bauer, R. Islam, and M. Pronschinske for field and laboratory assistance. This study was supported by NSF grants to Elizabeth D. Swanner (EAR ‐ 1660691), Chad Wittkop (EAR ‐ 1660761), and Sergei Katsev (EAR ‐ 1660873), as well as by grants from the Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation. We thank the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) for access to Brownie Lake. Coring and sectioning utilized the resources and assistance of LacCore, UMN (NSF‐IF‐0949962). This research used resources of the Advanced Light Source, which is a DOE Office of Science User Facility under Contract No. DE‐AC02‐05CH11231. Research described in this paper was partly performed at the Canadian Light Source, which is supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the University of Saskatchewan, the Government of Saskatchewan, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the National Research Council Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • ferruginous
  • lakes
  • meromictic
  • methane flux

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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