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Water Hyacinth’s Effect on Greenhouse Gas Fluxes: A Field Study in a Wide Variety of Tropical Water Bodies

Abstract

Water hyacinth is able to sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in wetlands. At the same time, the high production of organic matter combined with the plant’s capacity to limit the diffusion of oxygen from the atmosphere into the water creates favorable conditions for the production of methane (CH4). The combination of these mechanisms challenges the prediction of water hyacinth’s net effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To unravel the impact of water hyacinth on GHG fluxes, we performed an extensive fieldwork study encompassing 22 sites dominated by water hyacinth in the Pantanal and Amazon during two different seasons. The highest CH4 emissions from water hyacinth beds occurred in shallow systems where sediment rooting enabled plant-mediated CH4 transport (307 ± 407 mg CH4 m−2 day−1 in waters shallower than 1 m, as opposed to 6.1 ± 10.6 mg CH4 m−2 day−1 in deeper waters). When CO2 uptake rates are added to the GHG budget (in terms of global warming potential), the water bodies were usually a GHG sink (− 5.2 ± 10 gCO2 eq m−2 day−1). The strength of the sink is highest in deeper systems where even a low water hyacinth coverage may already offset open water emissions. This dual effect of strong CO2 uptake—and at least temporal carbon storage in biomass—in combination with a high CO2–to-biomass-to-CH4 (and possibly back to CO2) conversion highlights the necessity to include vegetation characteristics in relation to depth when estimating GHG fluxes for tropical wetlands.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the institutions that helped during the field campaign—6o Batalhão de Fronteira de Cáceres; Grupo Cassol Energia; Bichos do Pantanal Project through the Socio-environmental Petrobras Program; and the Federal University of Juiz de Fora—Brazil. We thank Donato Abe for borrowing the Uwitec corer sampler. Also, we thank the people involved in the laboratory analyses (Roy Peters; Germa Verheggen; Sebastian Krosse; Paul van der Ven). Finally, we would like to thank the institutions funding this research - Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW-Ecology Fund) and Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa de Mato Grosso (FAPEMAT). E.S. was also funded by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—CAPES by the Science without Borders program Process BEX 13607/13-8. S.K. was supported by NWO-VENI grant 86312012.

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Correspondence to Ernandes S. Oliveira Junior.

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ESOJ and SK designed the research. ESOJ, SK, TB, JN, AB, RA, SW collected the data, analyzed the material sampled in the laboratory and analyzed the results. CA, CM, JR, and LL discussed the results. ESOJ wrote the manuscript and all other authors provided discussions of the content and editorial advice.

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Oliveira Junior, E.S., van Bergen, T.J.H.M., Nauta, J. et al. Water Hyacinth’s Effect on Greenhouse Gas Fluxes: A Field Study in a Wide Variety of Tropical Water Bodies. Ecosystems 24, 988–1004 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-020-00564-x

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Keywords

  • Eichhornia crassipes
  • floating macrophytes
  • methane emission
  • carbon dioxide
  • global warming
  • ebullitive flux
  • Pantanal
  • Amazon