Saturday, July 13, 2024

New Research Highlights A New Take On Methane


Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany have offered a new take on the role of methane in the ocean by demonstrating that some bacteria release the gas as a byproduct of the acquisition of phosphorus.

The researchers investigated the bacterial production of methane in the surface waters off the Caribbean island of Barbados.

At this time, the exact role, distribution and significance of these bacteria are unknown. However, the researchers show that the bacteria also have a beneficial effect: In their quest to acquire phosphorous, they fix large quantities of carbon dioxide in the seawater. On the other hand, they also release lots of methane, which is also a potent greenhouse gas.

According to first author Jan Von Arx:

“So far, this process has only been studied in a few regions, mainly in the Pacific. We have now examined it for the first time in the western tropical North Atlantic. According to our calculations, the bacteria can cover around a tenth of their phosphorus requirements from methylphosphonate. This allows them to remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in this region. This clearly underlines the ecological importance of phosphonates in the carbon cycle of nutrient-poor ocean regions.”

While Jana Milucka, senior author and head of the Greenhouse Gases Research Group at the Max Planck Institute, added:

“But we were also able to detect methane at depths of up to 200 meters, even though at these depths there is actually enough phosphate and the bacteria wouldn’t need to use methylphosphonate.”

You can find the original research here.

Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy is a TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer, and PADI Staff and Trimix Instructor. Diving for 28 years, a dive pro for 14, I have traveled extensively chasing my passion for diving. I am passionate about everything diving, with a keen interest in exploration, Sharks and big stuff, Photography and Decompression theory. Diving is definitely the one and only passion that has stayed with me my whole life! Sam is a Staff Writer for