Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Microbe responsible for methane from landfills identified

Date:
April 6, 2011
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Researchers have long known that landfills produce methane, but had a hard time figuring out why -- since landfills do not start out as a friendly environment for the organisms that produce methane. New research shows that one species of microbe is paving the way for other methane producers.

Researchers have long known that landfills produce methane, but had a hard time figuring out why -- since landfills do not start out as a friendly environment for the organisms that produce methane. New research from North Carolina State University shows that one species of microbe is paving the way for other methane producers.

Specifically, the researchers found that an anaerobic bacterium called Methanosarcina barkeri appears to be the key microbe.

"Landfills receive a wide variety of solid waste, and that waste generally starts out with a fairly low pH level," says Dr. Francis de los Reyes, an associate professor of civil engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. "The low pH level makes it difficult for most methanogens -- methane-producing organisms -- to survive. We started this project in hopes of better understanding the mechanism that raises the pH level in landfills, fostering the growth of methanogens."

What the researchers found was M. barkeri -- a hearty methanogen that can survive at low pH levels. M. barkeri consumes the acids in its environment, producing methane and increasing the pH levels in its immediate area. This, in turn, makes that area more amenable for other methanogens.

As moisture leaches through the landfill, it disseminates those high pH levels -- making other parts of the landfill habitable for M. barkeri and other methane-producing microbes. M. barkeri then moves in and repeats the process, leaving neutral pH levels -- and healthy populations of other methanogens -- in its wake.

Since M. barkeri and its methanogen cousins produce large quantities of methane, and methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, this could be bad news for the environment. But not necessarily. Methane can be, and often is, collected at landfill sites and used for power generation. Furthermore, methanogens break down solid waste as they go, compacting it so that it takes up less space.

"The research community can use our findings to explore ways of accelerating the methane-generation process," de los Reyes says, "creating methane more quickly for power generation, and making additional room in the landfill for waste disposal."

The paper will be published in the April issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research was funded by Waste Management, Inc. and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. F. Staley, F. L. de los Reyes, M. A. Barlaz. Effect of Spatial Differences in Microbial Activity, pH, and Substrate Levels on Methanogenesis Initiation in Refuse. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2011; 77 (7): 2381 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02349-10

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Microbe responsible for methane from landfills identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110406102139.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2011, April 6). Microbe responsible for methane from landfills identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110406102139.htm
North Carolina State University. "Microbe responsible for methane from landfills identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110406102139.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) Federal researchers have released new images of the City of Chester, a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888. Researchers recently found the shipwreck while mapping shipping routes. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 23, 2014) A group of space explorers say the chance of a city-obliterating asteroid striking Earth is higher than scientists previously believed. Deborah Gembara reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins