, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 95–115

The geochemistry of methane in Lake Fryxell, an amictic, permanently ice-covered, antarctic lake

  • Richard L. Smith
  • Laurence G. Miller
  • Brian L. Howes


The abundance and distribution of dissolved CH4 were determined from 1987–1990 in Lake Fryxell, Antarctica, an amictic, permanently ice-covered lake in which solute movement is controlled by diffusion. CH4 concentrations were < 1 υM in the upper oxic waters, but increased below the oxycline to 936 μM at 18 m. Sediment CH4 was 1100 μmol (1 sed)−1 in the 0–5 cm zone. Upward flux from the sediment was the source of the CH4, NH4+, and DOC in the water column; CH4 was 27% of the DOC+CH4 carbon at 18 m. Incubations with surficial sediments indicated that H14CO3 reduction was 0.4 μmol (1 sed)−1 day−1 or 4× the rate of acetate fermentation to CH4. There was no measurable CH4 production in the water column. However, depth profiles of CH4, NH4, and DIC normalized to bottom water concentrations demonstrated that a significant CH4 sink was evident in the anoxic, sulfate-containing zone of the water column (10–18 m). The δ13CH4 in this zone decreased from −72 % at 18 m to −76% at 12 m, indicating that the consumption mechanism did not result in an isotopic enrichment of 13CH4. In contrast, δ13CH4 increased to −55 % at 9 m due to aerobic oxidation, though this was a minor aspect of the CH4 cycle. The water column CH4 profile was modeled by coupling diffusive flux with a first order consumption term; the best-fit rate constant for anaerobic CH4 consumption was 0.012 yr−1. On a total carbon basis, CH4 consumption in the anoxic water column exerted a major effect on the flux of carbonaceous material from the underlying sediments and serves to exemplify the importance of CH4 to carbon cycling in Lake Fryxell.

Key words

antarctic lake carbon cycle methane methane oxidation methane production 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard L. Smith
    • 1
  • Laurence G. Miller
    • 2
  • Brian L. Howes
    • 3
  1. 1.Water Resources DivisionUS Geological SurveyBoulder
  2. 2.Water Resources DivisionUS Geological SurveyMenlo Park
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstituteWoods Hole

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