Half of global methane emissions come from highly variable aquatic ecosystem sources

Judith A. Rosentreter, Alberto V. Borges, Bridget R. Deemer, Meredith A. Holgerson, Shaoda Liu, Chunlin Song, John Melack, Peter A. Raymond, Carlos M. Duarte, George H. Allen, David Olefeldt, Benjamin Poulter, Tom I. Battin, Bradley D Eyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

395 Scopus citations


Atmospheric methane is a potent greenhouse gas that plays a major role in controlling the Earth’s climate. The causes of the renewed increase of methane concentration since 2007 are uncertain given the multiple sources and complex biogeochemistry. Here, we present a metadata analysis of methane fluxes from all major natural, impacted and human-made aquatic ecosystems. Our revised bottom-up global aquatic methane emissions combine diffusive, ebullitive and/or plant-mediated fluxes from 15 aquatic ecosystems. We emphasize the high variability of methane fluxes within and between aquatic ecosystems and a positively skewed distribution of empirical data, making global estimates sensitive to statistical assumptions and sampling design. We find aquatic ecosystems contribute (median) 41% or (mean) 53% of total global methane emissions from anthropogenic and natural sources. We show that methane emissions increase from natural to impacted aquatic ecosystems and from coastal to freshwater ecosystems. We argue that aquatic emissions will probably increase due to urbanization, eutrophication and positive climate feedbacks and suggest changes in land-use management as potential mitigation strategies to reduce aquatic methane emissions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-230
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 5 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-04-14
Acknowledgements: J.A.R. and B.D.E. were supported by ARC Grants DP160100248 and LP150100519. A.V.B. is a research director at the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS). C.S. was supported by The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research programme grant 2019QZKK0304. J.M. received funding from NASA grant NNX17AK49G. B.P. acknowledges support from the NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF5439). D.O. was supported by funding from the Campus Alberta Innovates Program (CAIP). Thanks to M. F. Billett, K. McKenzie and M. Wallin for providing additional information for the streams and rivers dataset. Thanks to A. Grinham, L. Gómez-Gener, T. DelSontro, K. Kuhn and K. Delwich for providing ancillary data to the lake and reservoir dataset. We thank P. del Giorgio and Y. Prairie for providing feedback on earlier versions of this work. We thank J.-J. Chen for translating several Chinese papers. Any use of trade, firm or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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