Lipid and carbon isotopic evidence of methane-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing bacteria in association with gas hydrates from the Gulf of Mexico

Chuanlun L. Zhang, Yiliang Li, Judy D. Wall, Lise Larsen, Roger Sassen, Yongsong Huang, Yi Wang, Aaron Peacock, David C. White, Juske Horita, David R. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

80 Scopus citations

Abstract

An integrated lipid biomarker-carbon isotope approach reveals new insight to microbial methane oxidation in the Gulf of Mexico gas-hydrate system. Hydrate-bearing and hydrate-free sediments were collected from the Gulf of Mexico slope using a research submersible. Phospholipid fatty acids consist mainly of C16-C18 compounds, which are largely derived from bacteria. The phospholipid fatty acids suggest that total biomass is enhanced 11-30-fold in gas-hydrate-bearing sediment compared to hydrate-free sediment. Lipid biomarkers indicative of sulfate-reducing bacteria are strongly depleted in 13C (δ13C = -48‰ to -70‰) in the hydrate-bearing samples, suggesting that they are involved in the oxidation of methane (δ13C = -47‰ for thermogenic methane and -70‰ for biogenic methane). Isotopic properties of other biomarkers suggest that sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (Beggiatoa) may also contribute to the lipid pool in hydrate-bearing samples, which are characterized by less negative δ13C values (to -11.2‰). In the hydrate-free sample, fatty acid biomarkers have δ13C values of -27.6‰ to -39.6‰, indicating that crude oil (average ~-27‰) or terrestrial organic carbon (average ~-20‰) are the likely carbon sources. Our results provide the first lipid biomarker-stable isotope evidence that sulfate-reducing bacteria play an important role in anaerobic methane oxidation in the Gulf of Mexico gas hydrates. The coupled activities of methane-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing organisms contribute to the development of ecosystems in deep-sea environments and result in sequestration of carbon as buried organic carbon and authigenic carbonates. These have implications for studying climate change based on carbon budgets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-242
Number of pages4
JournalGeology
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2002

Keywords

  • Anaerobic methane oxidation
  • Carbon isotopes
  • Gas hydrates
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Lipid biomarkers
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria

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