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

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Clear as mud: Desiccation cracks help reveal the shape of water on Mars
20.04.2018 | Geological Society of America

nachricht Hurricane Harvey: Dutch-Texan research shows most fatalities occurred outside flood zones
19.04.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

New research could literally squeeze more power out of solar cells

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

New record on squeezing light to one atom: Atomic Lego guides light below one nanometer

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>