Eutrophication will increase methane emissions from lakes and impoundments during the 21st century

Jake J. Beaulieu, Tonya DelSontro, John A. Downing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

317 Scopus citations


Lakes and impoundments are an important source of methane (CH 4 ), a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere. A recent analysis shows aquatic productivity (i.e., eutrophication) is an important driver of CH 4 emissions from lentic waters. Considering that aquatic productivity will increase over the next century due to climate change and a growing human population, a concomitant increase in aquatic CH 4 emissions may occur. We simulate the eutrophication of lentic waters under scenarios of future nutrient loading to inland waters and show that enhanced eutrophication of lakes and impoundments will substantially increase CH 4 emissions from these systems (+30–90%) over the next century. This increased CH 4 emission has an atmospheric impact of 1.7–2.6 Pg C-CO 2 -eq y −1 , which is equivalent to 18–33% of annual CO 2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. Thus, it is not only important to limit eutrophication to preserve fragile water supplies, but also to avoid acceleration of climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1375
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Minnesota Sea Grant College Program and by the Industrial Research Chair in Carbon Biogeochemistry in Boreal Aquatic Systems (CarBBAS), co-funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Hydro-Québec. The joint lake-size by chla distribution, CH4 emission rates, and corresponding chla values are available at the figshare data repository ( This document has been reviewed in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy and approved for publication. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

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


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