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Carbon Dioxide and Methane Fluxes from Various Vegetation Communities of a Natural Tropical Freshwater Wetland in Different Seasons


Emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) is of interest in tropical wetland studies because the high and relatively stable temperatures year-round enhance both primary productivity and organic matter decomposition. Nonetheless, there is scarcity of data on emission of these carbon-based greenhouse gases from tropical wetlands. We investigated CO2 and CH4 fluxes from a natural tropical freshwater wetland in Uganda under different dominant vegetation communities, i.e., Cyperus papyrus (Papyrus), Typha latifolia (Typha) and Phragmites mauritianus (Phragmites), during the dry and wet seasons. Gas samples were collected using static chambers and analyzed by gas chromatography. Fluxes (mg C m−2 h−1) of both CO2 and CH4 from Papyrus (732.9 ± 48.7 [mean ± standard error] and 14.1 ± 0.8, respectively) and from Typha (759.7 ± 51.4 and 13.5 ± 1.2, respectively) insignificantly varied (p > 0.05) during the dry season. However, CO2 and CH4 fluxes from both vegetation communities during this season were significantly lower and higher (p < 0.05), respectively, than in Phragmites (871.8 ± 56.7 and 8.7 ± 0.5). During the wet season, no significant variation (p > 0.05) occurred among the three vegetation communities for both CO2 and CH4 fluxes (Phragmites: 691.9 ± 55.8 and 15.6 ± 1.1, Typha: 682.0 ± 53.3 and 16.3 ± 1.2, and Papyrus: 651.2 ± 49.0 and 17.1 ± 1.7, respectively). Water level was the main driver of CO2 and CH4 fluxes from the wetland, suggesting its importance in any efforts to regulate fluxes of both gases in tropical wetlands. We estimated total annual CO2 and CH4 emissions from Uganda’s wetland soils in the ranges of 159.5 × 106–180.2 × 106 t C (tonnes of carbon) and 278.9 × 104–359.7 × 104 t C, respectively.


• Vegetation community does not influence CO2 and CH4 fluxes from a tropical freshwater wetland soil under continuous flooding

• High water level in a tropical freshwater wetland lowers CO2 flux but increases CH4 flux

• A wetland’s role in climate change mitigation is a function of carbon sequestration and emission

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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Financial support for this study was provided by the African Centre of Excellence for Water Management (ACEWM), under the World Bank’s African Centres of Excellence (ACE II) Project. Additional funding was provided by University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria, with the support of Mag. Gerold Winkler and Prof. Thomas Hein. Mr. Enock Kajubi is very much appreciated for mapping the study area. We extend thanks to the local community members neighbouring Naigombwa wetland for the good hospitality during field sampling. More thanks go to the Department of Environmental Management, Makerere University for offering laboratory and working space. Lastly, we thank Mr. Peter Mutua at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya for the technical assistance with analysis of gas samples.


This work was supported by the African Center of Excellence for Water Management (ACEWM) (Grant No. ACEWM/GSR/9813/10), under the World Bank’s African Centers of Excellence (ACE II) Project.

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Conceptualization: David Were, Frank Kansiime, Tadesse Fetahi; Methodology: David Were; Formal analysis and investigation: David Were, Writing—original draft preparation: David Were; Writing—review and editing: Frank Kansiime, Tadesse Fetahi, Thomas Hein; Funding acquisition: Tadesse Fetahi, Thomas Hein; Resources: Frank Kansiime, Tadesse Fetahi, Thomas Hein; Supervision: Frank Kansiime, Tadesse Fetahi, Thomas Hein.

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Correspondence to David Were.

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Were, D., Kansiime, F., Fetahi, T. et al. Carbon Dioxide and Methane Fluxes from Various Vegetation Communities of a Natural Tropical Freshwater Wetland in Different Seasons. Environ. Process. 8, 553–571 (2021).

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  • Climate change
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Papyrus
  • Phragmites
  • Typha
  • Uganda’s wetlands