Methane flux from Minnesota Peatlands


  • P. M. Crill,

  • K. B. Bartlett,

  • R. C. Harriss,

  • E. Gorham,

  • E. S. Verry,

  • D. I. Sebacher,

  • L. Madzar,

  • W. Sanner


Northern (>40°N) wetlands have been suggested as the largest natural source of methane (CH4) to the troposphere. To refine our estimates of source strengths from this region and to investigate climatic controls on the process, fluxes were measured from a variety of Minnesota peatlands during May, June, and August 1986. Sites included forested and unforested ombrotrophic bogs and minerotrophic fens in and near the U.S. Department of Agriculture Marcell Experimental Forest and the Red Lake peatlands. Late spring and summer fluxes ranged from 11 to 866 mg CH4 m−2 d−1, averaging 207 mg CH4 m−2 d−1 overall. At Marcell Forest, forested bogs and fen sites had lower fluxes (averages of 77 ± 21 mg CH4 m−2 d−1 and 142 ± 19 mg CH4 m−2 d−1) than open bogs (average of 294 ± 30 mg CH4 m−2 d−1). In the Red Lake peatland, circumneutral fens, with standing water above the peat surface, produced more methane than acid bog sites in which the water table was beneath the moss surface (325 ± 31 and 102 ± 13 mg CH4 m−2 d−1, respectively). Peat temperature was an important control. Methane flux increased in response to increasing soil temperature. For example, the open bog in the Marcell Forest with the highest CH4 flux exhibited a 74-fold increase in flux over a three-fold increase in temperature. We estimate that the methane flux from all peatlands north of 40° may be on the order of 70 to 90 Tg/yr though estimates of this sort are plagued by uncertainties in the areal extent of peatlands, length of the CH4 producing season, and the spatial and temporal variability of the flux.