Enhanced greenhouse gas emission from exposed sediments along a hydroelectric reservoir during an extreme drought event

Hyojin Jin, Tae Kyung Yoon, Seung Hoon Lee, Hojeong Kang, Jungho Im, Ji Hyung Park

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An active debate has been underway on the magnitude and duration of carbon (C) emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs, yet little attention has been paid to stochastic C emissions from reservoir sediments during extreme climatic events. A rare opportunity for field measurements of CO2 efflux from a hydroelectric reservoir in Korea during an extreme drought event was used to examine how prolonged droughts can affect microbial organic matter processing and the release of CO2, CH4 and N2O from exposed sediments. Chamber measurements of CO2 efflux along an exposed sediment transect, combined with high-frequency continuous sensor measurements of the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in the reservoir surface water, exhibited extraordinary pulses of CO2 from exposed sediments and the turbulent inflowing water in contrast to a small CO2 sink in the main water body of the reservoir and a low efflux of CO2 from the flooded sediment. Significant increases in the production of CO2, CH4 and N2O observed in a laboratory incubation of sediments, together with enhanced activities of phenol oxidase and three hydrolases, indicate a temporary activation of microbial organic matter processing in the drying sediment. The results suggest that drought-triggered pulses of greenhouse gas emission from exposed sediments can offset the C accumulation in reservoir sediments over time scales of years to decades, reversing the trend of declining C emissions from aging reservoirs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - 23 Nov 2016

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© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • carbon dioxide
  • drought
  • extreme event
  • greenhouse gas emission
  • hydroelectric reservoir
  • sediment


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