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Article details importance of methane seeps

March 16, 2015--UD's Jennifer Biddle has co-authored an article detailing the important role methane seeps play in microbial biodiversity of the sea floor in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The article, “Global Dispersion and Local Diversification of the Methane Seep Microbiome,” provides evidence that methane seeps are island-like habitats that harbor distinct microbial communities unique from other seafloor ecosystems.

Methane seeps are natural gas leaks in the sea floor that emit methane into the water. Microorganisms that live on or near these seeps can use the methane as a food source, preventing the gas from collecting in the surrounding hydrosphere or migrating into the atmosphere.

“Marine environments are a potentially huge source for methane outputs to the atmosphere, but the surrounding microbes keep things in check by eating 75 percent of the methane before it gets to the atmosphere. These organisms are an important part of the underwater ecosystem, particularly as it relates to global gas cycles that are climate important in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Biddle, an assistant professor of marine biosciences in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.