U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Capturing Carbon in the Dark Ocean
Published: September 02, 2011
Posted: May 24, 2012

Contributions to the carbon cycle in the ocean's water column below the penetration of sunlight have not yet been explained either mechanistically or quantitatively, although a significant part of ocean carbon fixation is known to be due to microbial activities. Current oceanographic models suggest that archaea, the prevalent microbial domain in the oceans, do not adequately account for the carbon that is being fixed in the dark ocean. New research using sequencing technology has identified microbes involved in capturing carbon in the twilight zone, the region of the ocean that lies between 200 meters and 1,000 meters beneath the surface. This study discovered specific types of bacteria (the other domain of prokaryotic microbes besides the archaea) that may be responsible for this major, previously unrecognized component of the dark ocean carbon cycle. The report's authors isolated and identified bacteria from water samples collected in the South Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. They found that "...previously unrecognized metabolic types of dark ocean bacteria may play an important role in global biogeochemical cycles, and their activities may in part reconcile current discrepancies in the dark ocean's carbon budget." A better model of carbon cycling in the oceans will help experts predict future CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and oceans and impacts of altered CO2 fluxes on ocean biogeochemistry. This work involved researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute.

Reference: Swan, B., et al. 2011. "Potential for Chemolithoautotrophy Among Ubiquitous Bacteria Lineages in the Dark Ocean," Science 333, 1296-1300. DOI: 10.1126/science.1203690. (Reference link)

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)