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N3 Greenhouse gas formation and flux across boundaries in urban water bodies

Doctoral student: Sonia Herrero

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Mark Gessner, Dr. Peter Casper, Prof. Dr. Birgit Kleinschmit


Urban water systems comprise a complex network of lakes and other standing waters which may be isolated or connected by rivers and canals. The city of Berlin, for example, has more than 50 lakes, thousands of ponds and more than 190 km of natural and artificial waterways. All of these urban water bodies tend to receive high amounts of organic and inorganic compounds, which affect the metabolism and other characteristics of these aquatic ecosystems. This includes nutrient and carbon inputs that create conditions conducive to anaerobic carbon transformations both in deep layers of stratified waters and in sediments, resulting in a highly active interface. Methane formation and oxidation are processes of particular interest because this greenhouse gas (GHG) has strong effects of on climate. However, reliable estimates of methane emissions from waters in urban areas are scarce (López Bellido et al., 2011; Martinez-Cruz et al., 2016; Smith et al., 2016; Zhang et al., 2014). This calls for investigations into the dynamics of this potent GHG in urban surface waters, especially in light of the projected rapid increase in rates of urbanization in the next decades.


The present project focuses on determining the patterns and drivers of methane emissions from fresh waters in a metropolitan area under temperate climate. Field measurements are performed to narrow the current knowledge gap about urban GHG emission so as to provide estimates of methane-emissions from the urban water- atmosphere interface that can inform policy and management actions.


Repeated in-situ measurements of methane emissions are made with ultraportable gas analyzers (LGR). Other methodologies for the sediment- water interface are also implemented (gas traps and sediment cores). A total of 32 randomly selected surface waters will be analyzed in the city of Berlin, Germany, with 3.5 million inhabitants. In addition, laboratory incubations will be performed to assess the factors driving methane production in urban sediments, combined with analyses of organic pollutants and heavy metals, as well as organic matter content and other sediment properties.


First results suggest potential for high methane emissions to the atmosphere from both natural and engineered urban freshwater bodies. Spatiotemporal variation in emissions was found to be substantial, including systematic differences in total emission rates among different types of surface waters.

Collaborations: N4, N2, T2

Common topics: Micropollutants, modelling, interfaces in urban surface waters, biogeochemical processes

Further links: www.igb-berlin.de/en/profile/sonia-herrero

Fig. 1 Methane sampling methodology. In situ CH4 emissions analysis. Inverted funnels traps for methane bubbles. Sediment cores for CH4 production rates (from left to right).

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