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Keywords:

  • anaerobic bacteria;
  • Arctic tundra;
  • bacterial uptake;
  • bromomethane;
  • chloromethane;
  • halomethanes;
  • methyl halide biogeochemistry

Abstract

The Arctic tundra has been shown to be a potentially significant regional sink for methyl chloride (CH3Cl) and methyl bromide (CH3Br), although prior field studies were spatially and temporally limited, and did not include gross flux measurements. Here we compare net and gross CH3Cl and CH3Br fluxes in the northern coastal plain and continental interior. As expected, both regions were net sinks for CH3Cl and CH3Br. Gross uptake rates (−793 nmol CH3Cl m−2 day−1 and −20.3 nmol CH3Br m−2 day−1) were 20–240% greater than net fluxes, suggesting that the Arctic is an even greater sink than previously believed. Hydrology was the principal regulator of methyl halide flux, with an overall trend towards increasing methyl halide uptake with decreasing soil moisture. Water table depth was one of the best predictors of net and gross uptake, with uptake increasing proportionately with water table depth. In drier areas, gross uptake was very high, averaging −1201 nmol CH3Cl m−2 day−1 and −34.9 nmol CH3Br m−2 day−1; in flooded areas, gross uptake was significantly lower, averaging −61 nmol CH3Cl m−2 day−1 and −2.3 nmol CH3Br m−2 day−1. Net and gross uptake was greater in the continental interior than in the northern coastal plain, presumably due to drier inland conditions. Within certain microtopographic features (low- and high-centered polygons), uptake rates were positively correlated with soil temperature, indicating that temperature played a secondary role in methyl halide uptake. Incubations suggested that the inverse relationship between water content and methyl halide uptake was the result of mass transfer limitation in saturated soils, rather than because of reduced microbial activity under anaerobic conditions. These findings have potential regional significance, as the Arctic is expected to become warmer and drier due to anthropogenic climate forcing, potentially enhancing the Arctic sink for CH3Cl and CH3Br.