Pulse-labeling studies of carbon cycling in Arctic tundra ecosystems: The contribution of photosynthates to methane emission



[1] We investigated a possible mechanism underlying observed correlations between net ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange and methane emission. Using the technique of 14C pulse-labeling, we traced the movement of carbon fixed by photosynthesis as it moved through wet sedge and moist tussock tundra plant-soil mesocosms and was emitted as methane to the atmosphere. The 14C tracer provided a definitive way of quantifying the fate of recently fixed carbon. Carbon fixed by photosynthesis was measured as emitted methane from both moist tussock and wet sedge tundra mesocosms within 2 hours after labeling. Integration of time series measurements of methane emission showed that recent photosynthates are an important source of carbon for methane production. Approximately 2% of carbon fixed by photosynthesis at peak growing season was subsequently emitted as methane from moist tussock tundra, and approximately 3% was emitted as methane from wet sedge tundra. Measurements of soil pore water carbon pools demonstrate rapid transfer of 14C from plant carbon to dissolved forms and subsequently to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane.