, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1058–1071 | Cite as

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Freshwater Reservoirs: What Does the Atmosphere See?

  • Yves T. PrairieEmail author
  • Jukka Alm
  • Jake Beaulieu
  • Nathan Barros
  • Tom Battin
  • Jonathan Cole
  • Paul del Giorgio
  • Tonya DelSontro
  • Frédéric Guérin
  • Atle Harby
  • John Harrison
  • Sara Mercier-Blais
  • Dominique Serça
  • Sebastian Sobek
  • Dominic Vachon


Freshwater reservoirs are a known source of greenhouse gas (GHG) to the atmosphere, but their quantitative significance is still only loosely constrained. Although part of this uncertainty can be attributed to the difficulties in measuring highly variable fluxes, it is also the result of a lack of a clear accounting methodology, particularly about what constitutes new emissions and potential new sinks. In this paper, we review the main processes involved in the generation of GHG in reservoir systems and propose a simple approach to quantify the reservoir GHG footprint in terms of the net changes in GHG fluxes to the atmosphere induced by damming, that is, ‘what the atmosphere sees.’ The approach takes into account the pre-impoundment GHG balance of the landscape, the temporal evolution of reservoir GHG emission profile as well as the natural emissions that are displaced to or away from the reservoir site resulting from hydrological and other changes. It also clarifies the portion of the reservoir carbon burial that can potentially be considered an offset to GHG emissions.


GHG footprint reservoirs CO2 and CH4 emissions C burial 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yves T. Prairie
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jukka Alm
    • 2
  • Jake Beaulieu
    • 3
  • Nathan Barros
    • 4
  • Tom Battin
    • 5
  • Jonathan Cole
    • 6
  • Paul del Giorgio
    • 7
  • Tonya DelSontro
    • 7
  • Frédéric Guérin
    • 8
  • Atle Harby
    • 9
  • John Harrison
    • 10
  • Sara Mercier-Blais
    • 1
  • Dominique Serça
    • 11
  • Sebastian Sobek
    • 12
  • Dominic Vachon
    • 13
  1. 1.UNESCO Chair in Global Environmental ChangeUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Natural Resources Institute FinlandHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.United States Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA
  4. 4.Federal University of Juiz de ForaJuiz de ForaBrazil
  5. 5.École Polytechnique Fédérale de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  6. 6.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  7. 7.Université du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  8. 8.Géosciences Environnement Toulouse, CNRS, IRDUniversité Paul-SabatierToulouseFrance
  9. 9.SINTEF Energy ResearchTrondheimNorway
  10. 10.School of the EnvironmentWashington State UniversityVancouverUSA
  11. 11.Laboratoire d’AérologieObservatoire Midi-PyrénéesToulouseFrance
  12. 12.Department of Ecology and GeneticsUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  13. 13.Institute F.-A. Forel, Department of SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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