Microbial contributions to subterranean methane sinks

Jay T LennonA Schimmelmann


Sources and sinks of methane (CH4 ) are critical for understanding global biogeochemical cycles and their role in climate change. A growing number of studies have reported that CH4 concentrations in cave ecosystems are depleted, leading to the notion that these subterranean environments may act as sinks for atmospheric CH4 . Recently, it was hypothesized that this CH4 depletion may be caused by radiolysis, an abiotic process whereby CH4 is oxidized via interactions with ionizing radiation derived from radioactive decay. An alternate explanation is that the depletion of CH4 concentrations in caves could be due to biological processes, specifically oxidation by methanotrophic bacteria. We theoretically explored the radiolysis hypothesis and conclude that it is a kinetically constrained process that is unlikely to lead to the rapid loss of CH4 in subterranean environments. We present results from a controlled laboratory experiment to support this claim. We then tested the microbial oxidation hypothesis with a set of mesocosm experiments that were conducted in two Vietnamese caves. Our results reveal that methanotrophic bacteria associated with cave rocks consume CH4 at a rate of 1.3-2.7 mg CH4  · m-2  · d-1 . These CH4 oxidation r...Continue Reading


Feb 6, 2004·Environmental Microbiology·Elena HutchensJ Colin Murrell
Aug 4, 2006·Applied and Environmental Microbiology·Jennifer L MacaladySandro Mariani
Oct 13, 2009·FEMS Microbiology Ecology·Lejla PasićBlagajana Herzog-Velikonja
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Jan 17, 2013·Nature Reviews. Microbiology·Tori M Hoehler, Bo Barker Jørgensen
Apr 12, 2015·Journal of Environmental Radioactivity·Miriam Alvarez-GallegoSergio Sanchez-Moral
Apr 29, 2015·Nature Communications·Angel Fernandez-CortesSergio Sanchez-Moral


Aug 18, 2017·Scientific Reports·Chris L WaringGraham Bell
Sep 28, 2017·The ISME Journal·Clemens KarwautzTillmann Lueders

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