Methane and carbon dioxide cycling in soils of the Harvard Forest
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
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Soil is Earth's largest terrestrial carbon pool (Oertel et al., 2016) and can act as a net source of greenhouse gases (GHG). However, if organic material accumulates in soils faster than it is converted to CO2 by cellular respiration, soil becomes a smaller GHG source and even has the potential to become a GHG sink. Not much is known about factors that drive soil to be a source or a sink of GHG. Soil temperature and moisture have both been shown to correlate with CH4 emissions and temperature has been shown to correlate with CO 2 emissions (Jacinthe et al., 2015). Currently these relationships are not well constrained, particularly in upland soils, which are soils found at elevations between 100 and 500 m (Carating et al., 2014). Soil from the Harvard Forest was collected and used in two in-lab flux experiments to constrain the effect that soil moisture has on i.) the rate of CH4 and CO2 production/consumption and ii.) the fraction of injected CH4 that is oxidized to CO2 by soil microbes. The first experiment involved injecting vials containing soil samples with CH4 , taking an initial measurement with a residual gas analyzer (RGA), incubating for three days, and taking final measurements using the RGA. The results of this experiment indicated that cellular respiration is an important carbon source in these soils, with more CO2 coming from cellular respiration than from the oxidation of CH4. The second experiment involved injecting vials containing soil samples with CH4 and 14CH4 as a tracer, incubating for six days, and analyzing CO2 from each sample using a scintillation counter. This experiment showed a weak trend indicating that increased soil moisture may result in decreased CH4 oxidation. Results showed that decays per minute from the samples were lower than in a control. These results indicated that not all CO 2 from each sample was successfully captured and analyzed using the methods here. So while the trend may hold true, it should be supported by reconducting the experiment using a more reliable means of CO2 capture. The unexpected results from both experiments indicated that there is still much to be learned about the reactions that occur in these soils and how to perfect laboratory methods to study them.
Thesis: S.B., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, 2018.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (page 18).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.