Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists look to microbes to unlock Earth's deep secrets

Date:
January 11, 2012
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Of all the habitable parts of our planet, one ecosystem still remains largely unexplored and unknown to science: The igneous ocean crust. This rocky realm of hard volcanic lava exists beneath ocean sediments that lie at the bottom of much of the world's oceans. While scientists have estimated that microbes living in deep ocean sediments may represent as much as one-third of Earth's total biomass, the habitable portion of the rocky ocean crust may be 10 times as great.

JOIDES Resolution crew members prep a CORK for installation beneath the seafloor.
Credit: IODP/USIO

Of all the habitable parts of our planet, one ecosystem still remains largely unexplored and unknown to science: the igneous ocean crust.

This rocky realm of hard volcanic lava exists beneath ocean sediments that lie at the bottom of much of the world's oceans.

While scientists have estimated that microbes living in deep ocean sediments may represent as much as one-third of Earth's total biomass, the habitable portion of the rocky ocean crust may be 10 times as great.

Yet biologists know very little about this ecosystem. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Mid-Atlantic Ridge Microbiology Expedition set out to change that.

An international team of scientists sailing onboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution recently returned from installing observatories beneath the seafloor in "North Pond"--a remote area in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists hope that data collected from these subseafloor observatories (known as CORKs, or Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kits), along with studies of rock and sediment samples collected during the expedition, will help to shed light on the role tiny subseafloor microbes play in shaping Earth's oceans and crust.

Led by co-chief scientists Wolfgang Bach of the University of Bremen in Germany and Katrina Edwards of the University of Southern California, the expedition began in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Sep. 16, 2011, and concluded in Ponta Delgada in the Azores on Nov. 17, 2011.

Two CORKs were successfully installed, and sediment and basalt core samples were recovered. CORK observatories are designed to remain in place for up to ten years.

The North Pond subseafloor observatories will allow active experiments to be conducted below the bottom of the ocean for as much as five years after deployment.

Scientists from the expedition plan to return to these observatories with the first of many submersible expeditions in early 2012.

"The innovative and novel experiments and observations from this expedition promise to greatly advance our understanding of the nature and extent of microbial life in the most widespread of environments--the Earth's ocean crust," says Jamie Allan, program director for IODP at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF co-funds IODP.

In the coming months and years, researchers hope to answer three main questions:

  1. What is the nature of subseafloor microbial communities, and what is their role in the alteration of relatively young ocean crust?
  2. Are these communities unique, particularly in comparison with seafloor and sedimentary communities?
  3. Where do microbes in the igneous ocean crust come from (sediment, rock, seawater or another source)?

IODP is supported by two lead agencies: NSF and Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Scientists look to microbes to unlock Earth's deep secrets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120110193930.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2012, January 11). Scientists look to microbes to unlock Earth's deep secrets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120110193930.htm
National Science Foundation. "Scientists look to microbes to unlock Earth's deep secrets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120110193930.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday as Japanese rescuers resumed efforts to find survivors and retrieve bodies of those trapped by Mount Ontake's eruption. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Trapped Scientist Rescued from Cave in Peru

Raw: Trapped Scientist Rescued from Cave in Peru

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A Spanish scientist, who spent 12 days trapped about 1300 feet underground in a cave in Peru's remote Amazon region, was rescued on Tuesday. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Media, Industry Groups React To Calif. Plastic Bag Ban

Media, Industry Groups React To Calif. Plastic Bag Ban

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — California is the first state in the country to ban single-use plastic bags in grocery, liquor and convenience stores. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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