Spatial variability in biodegradation rates as evidenced by methane production from an aquifer

Applied and Environmental Microbiology
By: , and 



Accurate predictions of carbon and energy cycling rates in the environment depend on sampling frequencies and on the spatial variability associated with biological activities. We examined the variability associated with anaerobic biodegradation rates at two sites in an alluvial sand aquifer polluted by municipal landfill leachate. In situ rates of methane production were measured for almost a year, using anaerobic wells installed at two sites. Methane production ranged from 0 to 560 μmol · m-2 · day-1 at one site (A), while a range of 0 to 120,000 μmol · m-2 · day-1 was measured at site B. The mean and standard deviations associated with methane production at site A were 17 and 57 μmol · m-2 · day-1, respectively. The comparable summary statistics for site B were 2,000 and 9,900 μmol · m-2 · day-1. The coefficients of variation at sites A and B were 340 and 490%, respectively. Despite these differences, the two sites had similar seasonal trends, with the maximal rate of methane production occurring in summer. However, the relative variability associated with the seasonal rates changed very little. Our results suggest that (i) two spatially distinct sites exist in the aquifer, (ii) methanogenesis is a highly variable process, (iii) the coefficient of variation varied little with the rate of methane production, and (iv) in situ anaerobic biodegradation rates are lognormally distributed.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatial variability in biodegradation rates as evidenced by methane production from an aquifer
Series title Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume 60
Issue 10
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 8 p.
First page 3632
Last page 3639