Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deep-ocean carbon sinks

06.09.2013
Study involves basic research on dark ocean microorganisms

Although microbes that live in the so-called “dark ocean”—below a depth of some 600 feet where light doesn’t penetrate—may not absorb enough carbon to curtail global warming, they do absorb considerable amounts of carbon and merit further study.


While most people are familiar with microbes that occur above ground—such as this orange-colored colony surrounding Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park—microbes also occur around hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, at depths where light cannot penetrate and where they trap carbon using chemical energy instead of sunlight. Photo by Jim Peaco, National Park Service, via Wikimedia Commons.

That is one of the findings of a paper published in the International Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME) Journal by Tim Mattes, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering, and his colleagues.

Mattes says that while many people are familiar with the concept of trees and grass absorbing carbon from the air, bacteria, and ancient single-celled organisms called “archaea” in the dark ocean hold between 300 million and 1.3 billion tons of carbon.

“A significant amount of carbon fixation occurs in the dark ocean,” says Mattes. “What might make this surprising is that carbon fixation is typically linked to organisms using sunlight as the energy source.”

Organisms in the dark ocean may not require sunlight to lock up carbon, but they do require an energy source.

“In the dark ocean, carbon fixation can occur with reduced chemical energy sources such as sulfur, methane, and ferrous iron,” Mattes says. “The hotspots are hydrothermal vents that generate plumes rich in chemical energy sources that stimulate the growth of microorganisms forming the foundation for deep sea ecosystems.”

The hydrothermal vents the team studied are located in a volcanic caldera at Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean. The site is located some 300 miles west of Cannon Beach, Ore., and about 1,500 meters beneath the surface. Mattes’ colleague, Robert Morris, gathered data and collected samples used in the study during a 2011 cruise sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

“Using protein-based techniques, we observed that sulfur-oxidizing microorganisms were numerically dominant in this particular hydrothermal vent plume and also converting carbon dioxide to biomass, as suggested by the title of our paper: ‘Sulfur oxidizers dominate carbon fixation at a biogeochemical hot spot in the dark ocean.’”

With carbon fixation occurring on a large scale in the dark ocean, one might wonder about the contribution of such activity to offset carbon emissions widely believed to contribute to global warming, but Mattes sets aside any such speculation in favor of further study.

“While it is true that these microbes are incorporating carbon dioxide into their cells in the deep ocean and thus having an impact on the global carbon cycle, there is no evidence to suggest that they could play any role in mitigating global warming,” he says.

He adds that the primary value of the investigation is to better understand how microorganisms function in the dark ocean and to increase fundamental knowledge of global biogeochemical cycles.

Mattes conducted this research at the University of Washington School of Oceanography while on developmental leave from the UI.

Mattes’ colleagues in the study are: Brook Nunn, Katharine Marshall, Giora Proskurowski, Deborah Kelley, Orest Kawka, and Robert Morris of the University of Washington; David Goodlett of the University of Maryland; and Dennis Hansell of the University of Miami.

The study, published online in July, was funded under grants from the National Science Foundation OCE-1232840 and OCE-0825790 and National Institutes of Health 5P30ES007033-12 and 1S10RR023044.

Contacts
Gary Galluzzo, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0009
Tim Mattes, Civil and Environmental Engineering, 319-335-5065

Gary Galluzzo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiowa.edu

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>