Not all microbes are bad for us and the environment, and those that devour methane play an even more important and beneficial role than some scientists would have dared to hope. The tiny organisms can take part in moderating the Earth’s temperature. Methane, on the other hand, is known to play an important role in Earth’s climate.
SciTechDaily.com brings the news of the intriguing trait of the methane-devouring microbes to indirectly moderate Earth’s temperature. A team of scientists led by Jeffrey J. Marlow, who is a former postdoctoral researcher at Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University, discovered microbes that consume methane relatively fast. Methane-eating microbes from seven geologically diverse seafloor seeps were examined. The conclusion was that the carbonate rocks from one of the sites in particular hosts methane-oxidizing microbes with the highest rates of methane consumption that was measured to date.
Peter Girguis, who is senior author of the new study and Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, declared:
The microbes in these carbonate rocks are acting like a methane bio filter consuming it all before it leaves the ocean.
Girguis also said, as cited by SciTechDaily:
We measured the rate at which the microbes from the carbonates eat methane compared to microbes in sediment,
We discovered the microbes living in the carbonates consume methane 50 times faster than microbes in the sediment. We often see that some sediment microbes from methane-rich mud volcanoes, for example, may be five to ten times faster at eating methane, but 50 times faster is a whole new thing. Moreover, these rates are among the highest, if not the highest, we’ve measured anywhere.
Apart from being a short-lived greenhouse gas, methane is also a climate pollutant. For human health, methane is highly dangerous.
The new study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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