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

BER Research Highlights

Microbial Community Dynamics Impacting Methane Consumption in Freshwater Lakes
Published: October 21, 2014
Posted: January 12, 2015

Decay of plant material in oxygen-limited sediments of lakes and wetlands results in the production of massive amounts of methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas. However, only a fraction of the CH4 produced in these environments enters the atmosphere due to the metabolic activities of microbial methanotrophs. Methanotrophs are a class of bacteria capable of consuming CH4 and using it as both a source of carbon and energy to fuel their growth. Understanding even the basic physiology of methanotrophs remains limited, as evidenced by the recent discovery of a new fermentative mode of methanotrophic metabolism in organisms that were previously thought to strictly require oxygen for growth. In a new study by researchers at the University of Washington, experimental microcosms established with lake sediments were used to examine methanotrophic communities and their response to varying levels of oxygen. By tracking community composition through DNA pyrosequencing, the team determined that the methanotroph community features a nonrandom assemblage of organisms, with specific types adapted to either high or low oxygen levels. When the methanotroph community shifted in response to oxygen availability, an array of nonmethanotrophic microbes also changed. Preliminary evidence suggests that these organisms are metabolically partnered with methanotrophs, exchanging nutrients and facilitating methanotrophic processes. These results represent the first detailed examination of microbial community dynamics in a methanotrophic ecosystem and suggest a high degree of complexity in their response to shifting environmental variables. Gain­ing a more sophisticated understanding of microbial community dynamics influencing methano­trophs in natural settings will help to facilitate more accurate predictions of environmental CH4 production and consumption.

Reference: Oshkin, I. Y., D. A. C Beck, A. E. Lamb, V. Tchesnokova, G. Benuska, T. L. McTaggart, M. G. Kalyuzhnaya, S. N. Dedysh, M. E. Lidstrom, and L. Chistoserdova. 2014. “Methane-Fed Microbial Microcosms Show Differential Community Dynamics and Pinpoint Taxa Involved in Communal Response,” The ISME Journal, DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2014.203. (Reference link)

Contact: Joseph Graber, SC-23.2, (301) 903-1239
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities

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

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)