Active pockmarks in a large lake (Lake Constance, Germany): Effects on methane distribution and turnover in the sediment

Bussmann, Ingeborg, Stefan Schlömer, Michael Schlüter, and Martin Wessels

Limnol. Oceanogr., 56(1), 2011, 379-393 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2011.56.1.0379

ABSTRACT: In the eastern part of Lake Constance, the second largest prealpine lake in Europe, about 500 pockmarks (morphological depressions on the lake floor) were recently discovered. The diameters of these pockmarks are as large as 16 m, and about 24% of them continuously release methane in the form of visible bubbles. The isotopic composition of the escaping gas indicated that the methane was of biogenic origin and was predominantly produced by the CO2-reduction pathway. In shallow-water pockmarks (9 m and 12 m), pore-water analysis revealed increased methane concentrations of > 1100 µmol L-1 in the sediment. Diffusive methane fluxes and oxidation rates within these shallow pockmarks were much higher than in sediments outside pockmarks. An estimated methane ebullition into the water column of about 40 L h-1 per pockmark showed that methane ebullition is by far the dominant pathway of methane release from these shallow pockmarks. Meiofauna abundance and organic carbon contents of the sediment were also higher in the shallow pockmarks, but there were no differences in macrofauna. In a deep pockmark (80 m), even though bubble release was observed, the sediment inside the pockmark had almost the same methane concentrations and isotopic compositions as a site outside of the pockmark. At both sites, the shallow and deep pockmark act mainly as sedimentation traps, the emanating gas has only minor influence on the methane inventory of the sediments and, therefore, gas bubbles enter the water column essentially unaffected.

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