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News

Methane eating undersea bugs prevent greenhouse gases getting out

Society For General Microbiology : 13 September, 2005  (New Product)
13 September 2005

Methane eating undersea bugs prevent greenhouse gases getting out

Scientists have discovered how microbes in the sea play a crucial part in preventing huge quantities of the greenhouse gas methane from reaching the atmosphere, according to research presented today at the Society for General Microbiology's 157th Meeting at Keele University, UK.

Methane is not just produced in rubbish tips, it also comes in huge quantities from decomposing seaweeds and tiny creatures which fall to the seabed. But other micro-organisms manage to consume more than 80% of the methane before it can bubble up through the seawater and reach the atmosphere, causing massive global warming.

'Scientists are just beginning to understand the importance of these marine ecosystems, which work without any oxygen,' says Dr Martin Kr
Scientists have discovered how microbes in the sea play a crucial part in preventing huge quantities of the greenhouse gas methane from reaching the atmosphere, according to research presented today at the Society for General Microbiology's 157th Meeting at Keele University, UK.

Methane is not just produced in rubbish tips, it also comes in huge quantities from decomposing seaweeds and tiny creatures which fall to the seabed. But other micro-organisms manage to consume more than 80% of the methane before it can bubble up through the seawater and reach the atmosphere, causing massive global warming.

'Scientists are just beginning to understand the importance of these marine ecosystems, which work without any oxygen,' says Dr Martin Krüger from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Resources in Hannover, Germany. 'Tiny micro-organisms working without oxygen in the marine sediments are shaping entire ecosystems like the Black Sea, and leave their imprint on the whole world.'

Analysing the way these seabed systems work will help scientists gain understanding and produce better models of the major forces contributing to global warming and climate changes. The research will give better estimates of the way greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane flow and recycle around the world.

'Without these methane eating micro-oroganisms, the seabed would be contributing significantly to global warming,' says Dr Krüger. 'Science has only just started to understand this new type of metabolism, independent of photosynthesis, on which we previously thought all life depended, which appears to be everywhere. We are also starting to identify new types of enzymes and new types of reactions which could be of great domestic, industrial, medical and biotechnological interest.'

Methane is not just produced in rubbish tips, it also comes in huge quantities from decomposing seaweeds and tiny creatures which fall to the seabed. But other micro-organisms manage to consume more than 80% of the methane before it can bubble up through the seawater and reach the atmosphere, causing massive global warming.

'Scientists are just beginning to understand the importance of these marine ecosystems, which work without any oxygen,' says Dr Martin Krüger from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Resources in Hannover, Germany. 'Tiny micro-organisms working without oxygen in the marine sediments are shaping entire ecosystems like the Black Sea, and leave their imprint on the whole world.'

Analysing the way these seabed systems work will help scientists gain understanding and produce better models of the major forces contributing to global warming and climate changes. The research will give better estimates of the way greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane flow and recycle around the world.

'Without these methane eating micro-oroganisms, the seabed would be contributing significantly to global warming,' says Dr Krüger. 'Science has only just started to understand this new type of metabolism, independent of photosynthesis, on which we previously thought all life depended, which appears to be everywhere. We are also starting to identify new types of enzymes and new types of reactions which could be of great domestic, industrial, medical and biotechnological interest.'
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