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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Measuring terrestrial fluxes of methyl chloride and methyl bromide using a stable isotope tracer technique


Atmospheric methyl chloride (CH3Cl) and methyl bromide (CH3Br), compounds involved in the destruction of stratospheric ozone, are simultaneously produced and consumed by the terrestrial biosphere. Here we present a stable isotope incubation technique using13CH3Cl and 13CH3Br as tracers to simultaneously determine production and consumption fluxes in boreal forest soils from Alaska, USA. Measured uptake rates are consistent with previously reported boreal soil results for CH3Br and show a CH3Cl:CH3Br molar consumption ratio of 40:1. Boreal forest soils appear to produce small amounts of these methyl halides as well, but at rates that are negligible in their global budgets. This isotope tracer technique can be applied to laboratory studies of plants and other soils and to field measurements where disturbances to the system can be minimized.

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