Dissolved CH4 concentrations in the Belgian coastal zone (North Sea) ranged between 670 nmol l−1 nearshore and 4 nmol l−1 offshore. Spatial variations of CH4 were related to sediment organic matter (OM) content and gassy sediments. In nearshore stations with fine sand or muddy sediments, the CH4 seasonal cycle followed water temperature, suggesting methanogenesis control by temperature in these OM-rich sediments. In offshore stations with permeable sediments, the CH4 seasonal cycle showed a yearly peak following the chlorophyll-a spring peak, suggesting that in these OM-poor sediments, methanogenesis depended on freshly produced OM delivery. This does not exclude the possibility that some CH4 might originate from dimethylsulfide (DMS) or dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) or methylphosphonate transformations in the most offshore stations. Yet, the average seasonal CH4 cycle was unrelated to those of DMS(P), very abundant during the Phaeocystis bloom. The annual average CH4 emission was 126 mmol m−2 y−1 in the most nearshore stations (~4 km from the coast) and 28 mmol m−2 y−1 in the most offshore stations (~23 km from the coast), 1260–280 times higher than the open ocean average value (0.1 mmol m−2 y−1). The strong control of CH4 by sediment OM content and by temperature suggests that marine coastal CH4 emissions, in particular in shallow areas, should respond to future eutrophication and warming of climate. This is supported by the comparison of CH4 concentrations at five stations obtained in March 1990 and 2016, showing a decreasing trend consistent with alleviation of eutrophication in the area.
Ecosystems – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 6, 2017
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