Seafloor microbes hoover up methane, keeping global warming in check

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A new study found that carbonate rock mounds on the ocean floor host communities of microbes that actively consume methane, a greenhouse gas that is particularly potent if released into the atmosphere. The researchers found that rock-inhabiting microbes consumed methane 50 times faster than microbes that live in sediment. These microbes therefore play a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature by consuming methane before it travels up into the water column and into the atmosphere. Jeffrey Marlow says we should be thinking more about microbes — those teensy, tiny organisms that inhabit just about every part of the biosphere, but are only visible under the lens of a microscope. “Microbes really matter in the environment,” Marlow, an assistant professor of biology at Boston University, told Mongabay in an interview. “They’re often out of sight, out of mind — but they are the first line of defense often in terms of climate change.” Marlow is the lead author of a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that looks at microbes that live in carbonate rock mounds and their interactions with methane, the chemical compound that naturally seeps out of the seafloor. By collecting […]

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