Spatially-Resolved Isotopic Source Signatures of Wetland Methane Emissions

Anita Ganesan, Angharad Stell, Nicola Gedney, Edward Comyn-Platt, Garry D. Hayman, Matthew Rigby, Ben Poulter, Edward Hornibrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
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We present the first spatially‐resolved wetland δ13C(CH4) source signature map based on data characterizing wetland ecosystems and demonstrate good agreement with wetland signatures derived from atmospheric observations. The source signature map resolves a latitudinal difference of ~10‰ between northern high‐latitude (mean ‐67.8‰) and tropical (mean ‐56.7‰) wetlands, and shows significant regional variations on top of the latitudinal gradient. We assess the errors in inverse modeling studies aiming to separate CH4 sources and sinks by comparing atmospheric δ13C(CH4) derived using our spatially‐resolved map against the common assumption of globally uniform wetland δ13C(CH4) signature. We find a larger interhemispheric gradient, a larger high‐latitude seasonal cycle and smaller trend over the period 2000‐2012. The implication is that erroneous CH4 fluxes would be derived to compensate for the biases imposed by not utilizing spatially‐resolved signatures for the largest source of CH4 emissions. These biases are significant when compared to the size of observed signals.

Plain Language Summary
Concentrations of methane are increasing in the atmosphere. In order to understand the reasons behind such variations, carbon isotopes are used to help identify changes in emission sources and sinks. We present a new global map of the carbon isotope signature associated with wetland methane emissions, the largest global source of methane to the atmosphere. We show how this newly synthesized information can lead to more accurate understanding of the causes of variations in the amount and rate of increase of methane in the atmosphere.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Early online date30 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Mar 2018


  • Isotopes


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