Large amounts of organic carbon are stored in Arctic permafrost environments, and microbial activity can potentially mineralize this carbon into methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In this study, we assessed the methane budget, the bacterial methane oxidation (MOX) and the underlying environmental controls of arctic lake systems, which represent substantial sources of methane. Five lake systems located on Samoylov Island (Lena Delta, Siberia) and the connected river sites were analyzed using radiotracers to estimate the MOX rates, and molecular biology methods to characterize the abundance and the community composition of methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB). In contrast to the river, the lake systems had high variation in the methane concentrations, the abundance and composition of the MOB communities, and consequently, the MOX rates. The highest methane concentrations and the highest MOX rates were detected in the lake outlets and in a lake complex in a floodplain area. Though, in all aquatic systems we detected both, Type I and II MOB, in lake systems we observed a higher diversity including MOB, typical of the soil environments. The inoculation of soil MOB into the aquatic systems, resulting from permafrost thawing, might be an additional factor controlling the MOB community composition and potentially methanotrophic capacity.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut