Bacterioneuston control of air-water methane exchange determined with a laboratory gas exchange tank

Robert C. Upstill-Goddard, Thomas Frost, Gordon R. Henry, Mark Franklin, J. Colin Murrell, Nicholas J.P. Owens

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52 Citations (Scopus)


The apparent transfer velocities (kw) of CH4, N2O, and SF6 were determined for gas invasion and evasion in a closed laboratory exchange tank. Tank water (pure Milli-RO® water or artificial seawater prepared in Milli-RO®) and/or tank air gas compositions were adjusted, with monitoring of subsequent gas transfer by gas chromatography. Derived kw was converted to "apparent k600," the value for CO2 in freshwater at 20°C. For CH4, analytical constraints precluded estimating apparent k600 based on tank air measurements. In some experiments we added strains of live methanotrophs. In others we added chemically deactivated methanotrophs, non-CH4 oxidizers (Vibrio), or bacterially associated surfactants, as controls. For all individual controls, apparent k600 estimated from CH4, N2O, or SF6 was indistinguishable. However, invasive estimates always exceeded evasive estimates, implying some control of gas invasion by bubbles. Estimates of apparent k600 differed significantly between methanotroph strains, possibly reflecting species-specific surfactant release. For individual strains during gas invasion, apparent k600 estimated from CH4, N2O, or SF6 was indistinguishable, whereas during gas evasion, k600-CH4 was significantly higher than either k600-N2O or k600-SF6, which were identical. Hence evasive k600-CH4/k600-SF6 was always significantly above unity, whereas invasive k600-CH4/k600-SF6 was not significantly different from unity. Similarly, k600-CH4/k600-SF6 for the controls and k600-N2O/k600-SF6 for all experiments did not differ significantly from unity. Our results are consistent with active metabolic control of CH4 exchange by added methanotrophs in the tank microlayer, giving enhancements of ∼12 ± 10% for k600-CH4. Hence reactive trace gas fluxes determined by conventional tracer methods at sea may be in error, prompting a need for detailed study of the role of the sea surface microlayer in gas exchange.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-1 - 19-15
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2003


  • Bacterioneuston
  • Gas exchange
  • Methane


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