Volatile organic compound fluxes in a subarctic peatland and lake

Roger Seco1,2, Thomas Holst1,3, Mikkel Sillesen Matzen1, Andreas Westergaard-Nielsen2, Tao Li1,2, Tihomir Simin1,2, Joachim Jansen4,5, Patrick Crill4,5, Thomas Friborg2, Janne Rinne3, and Riikka Rinnan1,2

1Terrestrial Ecology Section, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
2 Center for Permafrost (CENPERM), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
3Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
4Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
5Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm, Sweden


Ecosystems exchange climate-relevant trace gases with the atmosphere, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are a small but highly reactive part of the carbon cycle. VOCs have important ecological functions and implications for atmospheric chemistry and climate. We measured the ecosystem-level surface–atmosphere VOC fluxes using the eddy covariance technique at a shallow subarctic lake and an adjacent graminoid-dominated fen in northern Sweden during two contrasting periods: the peak growing season (mid-July) and the senescent period post-growing season (September–October).

In July, the fen was a net source of methanol, acetaldehyde, acetone, dimethyl sulfide, isoprene, and monoterpenes. All of these VOCs showed a diel cycle of emission with maxima around noon and isoprene dominated the fluxes (93±22 µmol m−2 d−1, mean ± SE). Isoprene emission was strongly stimulated by temperature and presented a steeper response to temperature (Q10=14.5) than that typically assumed in biogenic emission models, supporting the high temperature sensitivity of arctic vegetation. In September, net emissions of methanol and isoprene were drastically reduced, while acetaldehyde and acetone were deposited to the fen, with rates of up to −6.7±2.8 µmol m−2 d−1 for acetaldehyde.

Remarkably, the lake was a sink for acetaldehyde and acetone during both periods, with average fluxes up to −19±1.3  µmol m−2 d−2 of acetone in July and up to −8.5±2.3 µmol m−2d−1 of acetaldehyde in September. The deposition of both carbonyl compounds correlated with their atmospheric mixing ratios, with deposition velocities of −0.23±0.01 and −0.68±0.03 cm s−1 for acetone and acetaldehyde, respectively.

Even though these VOC fluxes represented less than 0.5 % and less than 5 % of the CO2 and CH4 net carbon ecosystem exchange, respectively, VOCs alter the oxidation capacity of the atmosphere. Thus, understanding the response of their emissions to climate change is important for accurate prediction of the future climatic conditions in this rapidly warming area of the planet.