Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gotcha! Microbial “methane eaters” use gas bubbles to rise from the seafloor into the water column

30.07.2015

Novel bubble catcher provides proof of a so far unknown transport process, with potential implications for the reduction of the greenhouse gas methane in the marine environment

To improve our knowledge on the role microorganisms play in the process of regulating methane in the sea, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW) developed a novel instrument to detect the transport of microorganisms via methane gas bubbles ascending from the seafloor.


Bubble funnel of the IOW bubble catchers above one of the methane seeps of the research area

University of California


IOW bubble catchers in action at the coast of California: Project leader Oliver Schmale (r.) securing water samples together with Jens Schneider v. Deimling (GEOMAR, left) and Katrin Kießlich (IOW)

IOW

With the successful deployment of this bubble catcher, they provided first-time proof that together with the gas bubbles, methane-consuming bacteria can get from the sediment into the water column. These so called methanotrophic bacteria play an important role in the reduction of the methane fluxes from the ocean to the atmosphere. Thus, they influence the climate on earth, as methane is a highly efficient greenhouse gas.

One of the major goals in current environmental research is to understand how the greenhouse gas methane finds its way into the atmosphere and which processes can affect this flux. Oceanographers, too, put a focus of their investigations on marine sources of methane all over the world oceans. Examples of these sources are subsea mud volcanoes, cold hydrocarbon seeps and sediments rich in organic matter from coastal seas like the Baltic Sea.

Microorganisms are adapted to this comprehensive and versatile supply: within the water column, mainly methane-oxidizing bacteria are using methane as a source of energy and carbon, while at the seafloor mainly methanotrophic archaea assume this part. Both groups are transforming the methane into carbonate and biomass or carbon dioxide – which in comparison with methane is a less potent greenhouse gas. This process, in general, prevents seafloor-borne methane from ascending to the sea surface and into the atmosphere.

This microbial methane filter does no longer function once the methane seepage becomes so intense that the gas is liberated in form of gas bubbles from the seafloor. Because of a high velocity of the bubbles, methane will then pass the zone where the methane-consuming microorganisms live too quickly. With the novel bubble catcher from Rostock the scientists investigated whether methanotrophic bacteria from the sediment can participate in this upward shuttle and the surrounding water continuously gets inoculated by these bacteria.

It is known from other aquatic environments – like for example groundwater – that bubbles can transport microorganisms on their surface. But the bubble-mediated transport between sediment and water column was left unobserved up to now. To provide proof of such a process, however, is not easily done as the bubbles and the attached microorganisms have to be caught directly above the seep without contamination.

The scientists from the IOW together with their colleagues from the GEOMAR Institute in Kiel and the University of California succeeded with a pilot study off the coast of California above a natural seep of methane in catching the emerging bubbles by means of a cylinder filled with artificial sterile sea water. Subsequent microscopic analyses (CARD-FISH) revealed that the bubbles were accompanied by methane oxidizing bacteria.

Oliver Schmale: „We know now that the gas bubbles transport these bacteria from the sediment into the water column. Whether the organisms stay active in their new surrounding and thus can reduce the transport of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, must be clarified by further studies.”

Financed by the German Science Foundation (DFG), the investigations and results described here were recently published in the journal Continental Shelf Research: Schmale, O., I. Leifer, J. S. v. Deimling, C. Stolle, S. Krause, K. Kießlich, A. Frahm and T. Treude (2015). Bubble transport mechanism: indications for a gas bubble-mediated inoculation of benthic methanotrophs into the water column. Cont. Shelf Res. 103: 70-78, doi:10.1016/j.csr.2015.04.022

*Contact:
Dr. Oliver Schmale, Department Marine Chemistry, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, phone: +49 381 5197 305, oliver.schmale@io-warnemuende.de

Dr. Barbara Hentzsch, Press Officer, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, phone : +49 381 5197 102, barbara.hentzsch@io-warnemuende.de

The IOW is a member of the Leibniz Association with currently 89 research institutes and scientific infrastructure facilities. The focus of the Leibniz Institutes ranges from natural, engineering and environmental sciences to economic, social and space sciences as well as to the humanities. The institutes are jointly financed at the state and national levels. The Leibniz Institutes employ a total of 18.100 people, of whom 9.200 are scientists. The total budget of the institutes is 1.64 billion Euros. (http://www.leibniz-association.eu)

Dr. Barbara Hentzsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>