Pumping methane out of aquatic sediments – ebullition forcing mechanisms in an impounded river
Abstract. Freshwater systems contribute significantly to the global atmospheric methane budget. A large fraction of the methane emitted from freshwaters is transported via ebullition. However, due to its strong variability in space and time, accurate measurements of ebullition rates are difficult; hence, the uncertainty regarding its contribution to global budgets is large. Here, we analyze measurements made by continuously recording automated bubble traps in an impounded river in central Europe and investigate the mechanisms affecting the temporal dynamics of bubble release from cohesive sediments. Our results show that the main triggers of bubble release were pressure changes, originating from the passage of ship lock-induced surges and ship passages. The response to physical forcing was also affected by previous outgassing. Ebullition rates varied strongly over all relevant timescales from minutes to days; therefore, representative ebullition estimates could only be inferred with continuous sampling over long periods. Since ebullition was found to be episodic, short-term measurement periods of a few hours or days will likely underestimate ebullition rates. Our results thus indicate that flux estimates could be grossly underestimated (by up to ~50%) if the correct temporal resolution is not used during data collection.