Pond greenhouse gas emissions controlled by duckweed coverage

Joseph Rabaey, James Cotner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Freshwaters are significant contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Small waterbodies such as ponds are now recognized to have disproportionate greenhouse gas emissions relative to their size, but measured emissions from ponds have varied by several orders of magnitude. To assess drivers of variation in pond greenhouse gas dynamics, we measured concentrations and emissions of CO2, CH4, and N2O across 26 ponds in Minnesota, United States, during the ice-free season. The studied ponds differed in land-use, from urban stormwater ponds to natural forested ponds. The ponds were all sources of greenhouse gases, driven by large CH4 emissions (mean 704 [sd 840] mg CH4-C m−2 d−1). CO2 fluxes were variable, but on average a sink (mean −25.9 [sd 862] mg CO2-C m−2 d−1), and N2O emissions were generally low (mean 0.398 [sd 0.747] mg N2O-N m−2 d−1). Duckweed coverage on the water surfaces ranged from 0% to 100% coverage, and had the largest influence on water chemistry and greenhouse gas dynamics across the ponds. Duckweed covered ponds (ponds with greater than 85% coverage) had higher phosphorus levels and increased anoxia compared to ponds without duckweed (ponds with less than 12% coverage), leading to higher CH4 concentrations and overall greenhouse gas emissions in the duckweed ponds. Duckweed ponds had a mean emission rate in CO2 equivalents of 30.9 g C m−2 d−1 compared to 11.0 g C m−2 d−1 in non-duckweed ponds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number889289
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
StatePublished - Oct 5 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thank you to Miriam Arroyo for aiding in fieldwork and data collection. Thank you to the Belwin Conservancy, Dodge Nature Center, Ordway Field Station, and Cedar Creek Ecosystem Reserve for access and use of study ponds. Research funding was provided by the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, as well as the Bell Museum of Natural History.

Funding Information:
Research funding was provided by the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, the Bell Museum of Natural History, and the NSF Department of Environmental Biology (DEB), grant number 1722507.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Rabaey and Cotner.


  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • climate change
  • floating macrophytes
  • freshwaters
  • gas fluxes
  • methane (CH4)
  • nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • stormwater ponds


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