Methanotrophy controls groundwater methane export from a barrier island

Charles A. Schutte, Alicia M. Wilson, Tyler Evans, Willard S. Moore, Samantha B. Joye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Methane concentrations can be high in coastal groundwater, resulting in methane export driven by submarine groundwater discharge. However, the magnitude of this methane flux depends significantly on the rate of methanotrophy, the often overlooked process of microbial methane consumption that occurs within coastal aquifer sediments. Here we describe a zone of methanogenesis within the freshwater lens of a barrier island aquifer and investigate the methane source/sink behavior of the barrier island system as a whole. The median concentration of methane dissolved in fresh groundwater beneath the center of the island was 0.6 mM, supported by high rates of potential methanogenesis (22 mmol m-2 day-1). However, rates of microbial methane consumption were also elevated in surrounding sediments (18 mmol m-2 day-1). Groundwater flowing from the zone of methanogenesis to the point of discharge into the ocean had a long residence time within methanotrophic sediments (~195 days) such that the majority of the methane produced within the barrier island aquifer was likely consumed there.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-256
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Apr 15 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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