Gas-Tracer Experiment for Evaluating the Fate of Methane in a Coastal Plain Stream: Degassing versus in-Stream Oxidation

Victor M. Heilweil, D. Kip Solomon, Thomas H. Darrah, Troy E. Gilmore, David P. Genereux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Methane emissions from streams and rivers have recently been recognized as an important component of global greenhouse budgets. Stream methane is lost as evasion to the atmosphere or in-stream methane oxidation. Previous studies have quantified evasion and oxidation with point-scale measurements. In this study, dissolved gases (methane, krypton) were injected into a coastal plain stream in North Carolina to quantify stream CH4 losses at the watershed scale. Stream-reach modeling yielded gas transfer and oxidation rate constants of 3.2 ± 0.5 and 0.5 ± 1.5 d-1, respectively, indicating a ratio of about 6:1. The resulting evasion and oxidation rates of 2.9 mmol m-2 d-1 and 1,140 nmol L-1 d-1, respectively, lie within ranges of published values. Similarly, the gas transfer velocity (K600) of 2.1 m d-1 is consistent with other gas tracer studies. This study illustrates the utility of dissolved-gas tracers for evaluating stream methane fluxes. In contrast to point measurements, this approach provides a larger watershed-scale perspective. Further work is needed to quantify the magnitude of these fluxes under varying conditions (e.g., stream temperature, nutrient load, gradient, flow rate) at regional and global scales before reliable bottom-up estimates of methane evasion can be determined at global scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10504-10511
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 4 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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