Biogeosciences Editors' Highlights

Drones Hunt for Impacts of Oil Exploration on Wetland Emissions

Seismic lines, constructed for petroleum resource exploration, disturb Canadian peatlands, but how can we detect their impact on greenhouse gas budgets?

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences


Wetlands store significant quantities of carbon. Any changes to rates of decomposition, especially those that increase methane emissions, increases risks of accelerating ongoing anthropogenic climate change. However, rates of methane emissions from wetlands are highly spatially variable, challenging attempts to scale disbursed measurements to larger scales. Lovitt et al. [2018] demonstrate a new approach to address this challenge by combining high resolution (2 cm) optical imagery from a remotely piloted aircraft with chamber measurements of methane emissions. The resulting maps reveal a 20-120% enhancement of methane emissions across seismic lines, constructed for petroleum resource exploration. Seismic lines are pervasive across Canada and northern Russia and depress the differences in the microforms (hummocks and hollows) that make up many of these peatlands, decreasing depth to water table, thereby increasing methane emissions. The results show high value of emerging measurement technology for improving our understanding and quantification of greenhouse gas budgets in remote regions.

Citation: Lovitt, J., Rahman, M. M., Saraswati, S., McDermid, G. J., Strack, M., & Xu, B. [2018]. UAV remote sensing can reveal the effects of low‐impact seismic lines on surface morphology, hydrology, and methane (CH4) release in a boreal treed bog. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 123.

—Ankur Rashmikant Desai, Editor, JGR: Biogeosciences

© 2018. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0