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Factors influencing CO2 and CH4 emissions from coastal wetlands in the Liaohe Delta, northeast China

February 1, 2015

Many factors are known to influence greenhouse gas emissions from coastal wetlands, but it is still unclear which factors are most important under field conditions when they are all acting simultaneously. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of water table, salinity, soil temperature and vegetation on CH4 emissions and ecosystem respiration (Reco) from five coastal wetlands in the Liaohe Delta, northeast China: two Phragmites australis (common reed) wetlands, two Suaeda salsa (sea blite) marshes and a rice (Oryza sativa) paddy. Throughout the growing season, the Suaeda wetlands were net CH4 sinks whereas the Phragmites wetlands and the rice paddy were net CH4sources emitting 1.2–6.1 g CH4 m−2 y−1. The Phragmites wetlands emitted the most CH4 per unit area and the most CH4 relative to CO2. The main controlling factors for the CH4 emissions were water table, temperature and salinity. The CH4 emission was accelerated at high and constant (or managed) water tables and decreased at water tables below the soil surface. High temperatures enhanced CH4 emissions, and emission rates were consistently low (< 1 mg CH4 m−2 h) at soil temperatures <18 °C. At salinity levels > 18 ppt, the CH4 emission rates were always low (< 1 mg CH4 m−2 h−1) probably because methanogens were outcompeted by sulphate reducing bacteria. Saline Phragmites wetlands can, however, emit significant amounts of CH4 as CH4 produced in deep soil layers are transported through the air-space tissue of the plants to the atmosphere. The CH4 emission from coastal wetlands can be reduced by creating fluctuating water tables, including water tables below the soil surface, as well as by occasional flooding by high-salinity water. The effects of water management schemes on the biological communities in the wetlands must, however, be carefully studied prior to the management in order to avoid undesirable effects on the wetland communities.