Characterization of stable isotope fractionation during methane production in the sediment of a eutrophic lake, Lake Dagow, Germany

Conrad, Ralf, Peter Claus, Peter Casper

Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(2), 2009, 457-471 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.2.0457

ABSTRACT: We measured δ13C of CO2, CH4, and acetate-methyl in profundal sediment of eutrophic Lake Dagow by incubation experiments in the presence and absence of methanogenic inhibitors chloroform, bromoethane sulfonate (BES), and methyl fluoride, which have different specificities. Methyl fluoride predominantly inhibits acetoclastic methanogenesis and affects hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis relatively little. Optimization of methyl fluoride concentrations resulted in complete inhibition of acetoclastic methanogenesis. Methane was then exclusively produced by hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis and thus allowed determination of the fractionation factors specific for this methanogenic pathway. Acetate, which was then no longer consumed, accumulated and allowed determination of the isotopic signatures of the fermentatively produced acetate. BES and chloroform also inhibited CH4 production and resulted in accumulation of acetate. The fractionation factor for hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis exhibited variability, e.g., it changed with sediment depth. The δ13C of the methyl group of the accumulated acetate was similar to the δ13C of sedimentary organic carbon, while that of the carboxyl group was by about 12% higher. However, the δ13C of the acetate was by about 5% lower in samples with uninhibited compared with inhibited acetoclastic methanogenesis, indicating unusual isotopic fractionation. The isotope data were used for calculation of the relative contribution of hydrogenotrophic vs. acetoclastic methanogenesis to total CH4 production. Contribution of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis increased with sediment depth from about 35% to 60%, indicating that organic matter was only partially oxidized in deeper sediment layers.

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