Consumption of atmospheric methane in a limestone cave in Indiana, USA
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Recent observations suggest that karst landscapes may be an unaccounted sink for atmospheric CH4, but questions remain about the processes contributing to sub-atmospheric CH4 mole fractions in caves. The CH4 dynamics associated with karst environments were studied over 18 months at 6 locations in Buckner Cave, Southern Indiana by measuring the mole fractions and stable isotopic composition of CH4 and carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 mole fractions were used to infer seasonal changes in airflow. Samples were obtained on a monthly basis. CH4 mole fractions ranged from 1.9 ± 0.1 ppm near the cave entrance to 0.1 ± 0.1 ppm in the more remote parts of the cave. The carbon and hydrogen stable isotopic compositions of CH4 in the cave ranged from − 58.7 to + 7 ‰ (VPDB) and − 170 to + 10 ‰ (VSMOW), respectively. The isotopic data suggest that the CH4 dynamics of Buckner Cave can be described by a seasonally variable mixing system in which atmospheric CH4 enters primarily through the main entrance and is subsequently consumed by methanotrophs. Additionally, at least two smaller CH4 sources are evident when air has been stagnant. The results suggest that subterranean karst cavities are an important sink for atmospheric CH4.
Cave Air, Methane, Carbon Dioxide, Cave, Methanotrophy, Greenhouse Gas
Chemical Geology, Vol. 443 (2016-12-02).
D.Webster, Kevin; Mirza, Anmar; M.Deli, Jessica; E.Sauer, Peter; and Schimmelmann, Arndt, "Consumption of atmospheric methane in a limestone cave in Indiana, USA" (2016). KIP Articles. 1201.