Critical inundation level for methane emissions from wetlands

TitleCritical inundation level for methane emissions from wetlands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsCalabrese S, Garcia A, Wilmoth JL, Zhang X, Porporato A
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Date Published03/2021
Type of ArticleOpen Access
Keywordsclimate, methane emissions, water level, wetlands

Global methane (CH4) emissions have reached approximately 600 Tg per year, 20-40% of which are from wetlands. Of the primary factors affecting these emissions, the water table level is among the most uncertain. Here we conduct a global meta-analysis of chamber and flux-tower observations of CH4 emissions and employ a mechanistic model to show that wetlands have maximum emissions at a critical level of inundation and discuss its origin. This maximum arises from an interplay between methanogenesis, methanotrophy, and transport, whose rates vary differently with the inundation level. The specific location of the critical water level above the soil surface may differ depending on wetland characteristics, for example temperature or the presence of macrophytes with aerenchyma. However, data suggest that globally a water level of about 50 cm is the most favorable to CH4 emissions. Keeping the water level away from this critical value could reduce methane emissions in human-made wetlands, which comprise at least one fifth of the global wetland area.