Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate change: bacteria play an important role in the long term storage of carbon in the ocean

01.04.2015

The ocean is a large reservoir of dissolved organic molecules, and many of these molecules are stable against microbial utilization for hundreds to thousands of years. They contain a similar amount of carbon as compared to carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the University of South Carolina and the Helmholtz Centre Munich found answers to questions about the origin of these persistent molecules in a study published in Nature Communications.

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the ocean is a highly complex mixture of different carbon-based substances which are metabolic or excretory products from organisms or have formed through decomposition processes. A proportion of the DOM can be consumed by bacteria and remineralized to carbon dioxide.


Algae and bacteria in the ocean have a great impact on the equilibrium between the drawdown and release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and therefore on the global climate.

However, the majority of the DOM found in the ocean (more than 90 percent) is resistant to bacterial utilization and can be 4,000 to 6,000 years old on average. "Bacteria have an enormous repertoire of enzymatic mechanisms to break down organic material and use it as a source of energy," said Dr Oliver Lechtenfeld of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), who carried out the study at the University of South Carolina.

"It's remarkable that such a large reservoir of DOM seems to be resistant to breakdown in the ocean. And it raises the question: where does this persistent DOM actually come from?"

Studies have shown that bacteria in laboratory experiments produce DOM that can be stable for over a year. Lechtenfeld: "We wanted to find out whether the DOM produced by bacteria in the laboratory is chemically comparable with the persistent DOM that occurs naturally".

For their study, the researchers placed bacteria from the sea in artificial sea water, in order to ensure that the water was DOM-free at the beginning of the experiment. The bacteria were fed using known carbon sources. "By doing this, we knew that the DOM measured in the incubations was produced by the bacteria", explained Lechtenfeld.

After four weeks the DOM produced by bacteria was analyzed using high-resolution chemical methods (nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and ultra high-resolution mass spectrometry) and compared with the DOM found naturally in sea water.

"Our study reveals that bacteria rapidly produced complex DOM that was similar in it's chemical composition to natural DOM. The results were surprising and indicate that bacterial metabolites are a source of the persistent molecules in the ocean," said Dr Ronald Benner from the University of South Carolina.

As a consequence, the researchers got an answer to their question as to the origin of persistent DOM: "It seems very clear that bacteria are a major driver in keeping a fraction of the atmospheric carbon dioxide in the ocean for long periods of time," said Dr Norbert Hertkorn of the Helmholtz Centre Munich.

"Although the percentage of persistent substances in our experiment was apparently very low, their stability suggests that they may accumulate in the ocean. This is how bacteria efficiently contribute to carbon storage in the ocean and play an important and so far underestimated role for our climate."

UFZ researcher Oliver Lechtenfeld wants to carry out further investigations to find out which chemical structures and mechanisms are responsible for bacteria being unable to break down persistent substances. In doing so he will extend his focus to include the soil ecosystem:

"Even less is known about which processes in the soil are responsible for capturing carbon in the form of persistent organic molecules. That is, however, an important aspect for agriculture and for the treatment of drinking water. As for some years, there have been increased DOM concentrations measured in catchment areas of water dams," said Lechtenfeld. "How climate change with rising average temperatures and changing precipitation patterns is going to affect the composition of bacterial communities in the sea and in soil and their ability to store carbon, requires further research efforts."

Publication:
Oliver J. Lechtenfeld, Norbert Hertkorn, Yuan Shen, Matthias Witt & Ronald Benner (2015): Marine sequestration of carbon in bacterial metabolites. Nature Communications 6:6711, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms7711

Further information:
Dr. Oliver Lechtenfeld
Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Department of Analytical Chemistry
Phone: +49(341)235-1020
E-mail: oliver.lechtenfeld@ufz.de

or via
UFZ press office (Tilo Arnhold, Susanne Hufe)
Phone: +49-(0)341-235-1635, -1630
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=640

In the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), scientists conduct research into the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. Their areas of study cover water resources, biodiversity, the consequences of climate change and possible adaptation strategies, environmental technologies and biotechnologies, bioenergy, the effects of chemicals in the environment and the way they influence health, modelling and social-scientific issues. Its guiding principle: Our research contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and helps to provide long-term protection for these vital assets in the face of global change. The UFZ em-ploys more than 1,100 staff at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the federal government, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. http://www.ufz.de/

The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major and urgent issues in society, science and industry through scientific excellence in six research areas: Energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter as well as aviation, aerospace and transportation. The Helmholtz Association is the largest scientific organisation in Germany, with 35,000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of around €3.8 billion. Its work is carried out in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894). http://www.helmholtz.de/

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=33696

Susanne Hufe | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>