The findings are of interest, in part, because little is known about the role the deep ocean crust may play in carbon storage and fixation. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas when in the atmosphere, in turn raise the levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans.
But it now appears that microbes in the deep ocean crust have at least a genetic potential for carbon storage, the report said. And it may lend credence to one concept for reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere, by pumping carbon dioxide into deep subsurface layers where it might be sequestered permanently.
The researchers also noted that methane found on Mars could be derived from geological sources, and concluded that subsurface environments on Mars where methane is produced could support bacteria like those found in this study.
"These findings don't offer any easy or simple solutions to some of the environmental issues that are of interest to us on Earth, such as greenhouse warming or oil spill pollution," Fisk said. "However, they do indicate there's a whole world of biological activity deep beneath the ocean that we don't know much about, and we need to study."
Microbial processes in this expansive subseafloor environment "have the potential to significantly influence the biogeochemistry of the ocean and the atmosphere," the researchers wrote in their report.
|Contact: Martin Fisk|
Oregon State University