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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Yves T. Prairie.

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YTP conceived the study, contributed new models and wrote the paper, while all other co-authors contributed to the conceptual development presented therein and also all participated in writing of the manuscript.

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Prairie, Y.T., Alm, J., Beaulieu, J. et al. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Freshwater Reservoirs: What Does the Atmosphere See?. Ecosystems 21, 1058–1071 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-017-0198-9

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Keywords

  • GHG footprint
  • reservoirs
  • CO2 and CH4 emissions
  • C burial