Bacteria hitchhike on methane bubbles, keep greenhouses gas in check

There are about 160 organisms from deep-sea vents that enjoy a methane meal on the way up to the ocean’s surface.

Seafloor-dwelling bacteria may hitch a ride on methane bubbles seeping from deep-sea vents, preventing the methane from reaching the atmosphere by eating it up, new research suggests.

The findings, presented here on Dec. 9 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, could help explain how such huge amounts of the greenhouse gas methane are belched from the ocean floor, yet somehow never reach the atmosphere.
“Above these methane seeps, you have these bubbles released from the sediment and you can see a higher abundance of these microbes in the water column,” said study co-author Oliver Schmale, a geologist and marine chemist at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Germany. “The microbes consume methane from these seeps before it escapes into the atmosphere.”
Potent warmer
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and huge reserves of it are buried beneath the oceans. Many scientists worry that if the oceans warm enough, these huge troves of methane could be released from their deep-sea storage and released into the atmosphere, fueling a huge spike in temperatures.
While much of the methane is locked in an inactive form, at shallower depths, bubbles of methane naturally seep up from mud volcanoes and other cracks in the ocean floor. Yet somehow, very little of this methane reaches the atmosphere.

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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at www.amooseinamapletree.com. She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

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