Navigation Links
Study finds novel worm community affecting methane release in ocean
Date:8/12/2013

CORVALLIS, Ore. Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand that has created its own unique food web, resulting in much more methane escaping from the ocean floor into the water column.

Most of that methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming our atmosphere, is likely consumed by biological activity in the water, the scientists say. Thus it will not make it into the atmosphere, where it could exacerbate global warming. However, the discovery does highlight scientists' limited understanding of the global methane cycle and specifically the biological interactions that create the stability of the ocean system.

Results of the study, which was funded primarily by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany, have just been published online in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

"We didn't discover any major 'burps' of methane escaping into the atmosphere," said Andrew R. Thurber, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. "However, some of the methane seeps are releasing hundreds of times the amounts of methane we typically see in other locations, so the structure and interactions of this unique habitat certainly got our attention.

"What made this discovery most exciting was that it is one of the first and best examples of a direct link between a food web and the dynamics that control greenhouse gas emissions from the ocean," Thurber added.

The scientists first discovered this new series of methane seeps in 600 to 1,200 meters of water off North Island of New Zealand in 2006 and 2007. The amount of methane emitted from the seeps was surprisingly high, fueling a unique habitat dominated by polychaetes, or worms, from the family Ampharetidae.

"They were so abundant that the sediment was black from their dense tubes," Thurber pointed out.

Those tubes, or tunnels in the sediment, are critical, the researchers say. By burrowing into the sediment, the worms essentially created tens of thousands of new conduits for methane trapped below the surface to escape from the sediments. Bacteria consumes much of the methane, converting it to carbon dioxide, and the worms feast on the enriched bacteria bolstering their healthy population and leading to more tunnels and subsequently, greater methane release.

The researchers say that there is one more critical element necessary for the creation of this unique habitat oxygen-rich waters near the seafloor that the bacteria harness to consume the methane efficiently. The oxygen also enables the worms to breathe better and in turn consume the bacteria at a faster rate.

"In essence, the worms are eating so much microbial biomass that they are shifting the dynamics of the sediment microbial community to an oxygen- and methane-fueled habitat and the worms' movements and grazing are likely causing the microbial populations to eat methane faster," said Thurber, who works in OSU's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. "That process, however, also leads to more worms that build more conduits in the sediments, and this can result in the release of additional methane."

Methane seeps and worm communities are present in many other areas around the world, the researchers point out, including the Pacific Northwest. However, the deep water in many of these locations has low levels of oxygen, which the scientists think is a factor that constrains the growth of the worm populations. In contrast, the study sites off New Zealand are bathed in cold, oxygen-rich water from the Southern Ocean that fuels these unique habitats.

"The large amounts of methane consumed by bacteria have kept it from reaching the surface," Thurber said. "Those bacteria essentially are putting the pin back in the methane grenade. But we don't know if the worms ultimately may overgraze the bacteria and overtax the system. It's something we haven't really seen before."


'/>"/>

Contact: Andrew Thurber
athurber@coas.oregonstate.edu
541-737-8251
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. Law that regulates shark fishery is too liberal: UBC study
3. New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change
4. Study jointly led by UCSB researcher supports theory of extraterrestrial impact
5. BYU study: Using a gun in bear encounters doesnt make you safer
6. 15-year study: When it comes to creating wetlands, Mother Nature is in charge
7. Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) shown to improve menopause symptoms in new study
8. Crystal structure of archael chromatin clarified in new study
9. EU-funded study underlines importance of Congo Basin for global climate and biodiversity
10. University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible
11. Study demonstrates cells can acquire new functions through transcriptional regulatory network
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... , March 30, 2017 Trends, opportunities and ... and behavioral), by technology (fingerprint, AFIS, iris recognition, facial ... and others), by end use industry (government and law ... financial and banking, and others), and by region ( ... , Asia Pacific , and the ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... The report "Video Surveillance Market ... Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, VMS), and Service (VSaaS, ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market was valued ... to reach USD 75.64 Billion by 2022, at a ... year considered for the study is 2016 and the ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... MILAN , March 24, 2017 The Controller ... Deputy Controller Mr. Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international ... Continue Reading ... ... small picture) and Deputy Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , Oct. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... London (ICR) and University of ... tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple myeloma (MM), in a ... . The University of Leeds is ... Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform the testing services to ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... San Diego-based team building ... corporate rebranding initiative announced today. The bold new look is part of a ... company moves into a significant growth period. , It will also expand its service ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Oct. 10, 2017 International research firm Parks Associates ... speak at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , October 11 in ... the residential home security market and how smart safety and security products ... Parks Associates: Smart ... "The residential security market ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... 2017  BioTech Holdings announced today identification and ... ProCell stem cell therapy prevents limb loss in ... demonstrated that treatment with ProCell resulted in more ... compared to standard bone marrow stem cell administration.  ... reduction of therapeutic effect.  ...
Breaking Biology Technology: