The importance of small artificial water bodies as sources of methane emissions in Queensland, Australia

Alistair Grinham, Simon Albert, Nathaniel Deering, Matthew Dunbabin, David Bastviken, Bradford Sherman, Catherine E. Lovelock, Christopher D. Evans

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59 Citations (Scopus)
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Emissions from flooded land represent a direct source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Methane emissions from large, artificial water bodies have previously been considered, with numerous studies assessing emission rates and relatively simple procedures available to determine their surface area and generate upscaled emissions estimates. In contrast, the role of small artificial water bodies (ponds) is very poorly quantified, and estimation of emissions is constrained both by a lack of data on their spatial extent and a scarcity of direct flux measurements. In this study, we quantified the total surface area of water bodies < 105 m2 across Queensland, Australia, and emission rates from a variety of water body types and size classes. We found that the omission of small ponds from current official land use data has led to an underestimate of total flooded land area by 24 %, of small artificial water body surface area by 57 % and of the total number of artificial water bodies by 1 order of magnitude. All studied ponds were significant hotspots of methane production, dominated by ebullition (bubble) emissions. Two scaling approaches were developed with one based on pond primary use (stock watering, irrigation and urban lakes) and the other using size class. Both approaches indicated that ponds in Queensland alone emit over 1.6 Mt CO2eq. yr-1, equivalent to 10 % of the state's entire land use, land use change and forestry sector emissions. With limited data from other regions suggesting similarly large numbers of ponds, high emissions per unit area and under-reporting of spatial extent, we conclude that small artificial water bodies may be a globally important missing source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5281-5298
Number of pages18
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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