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How methane becomes fish food

Date:
August 27, 2012
Source:
Linköping Universitet
Summary:
Methane is an organic carbon compound containing the fundamental building block of nearly all living material: carbon. It provides an important source of energy and nutrients for bacteria. Methane is produced in oxygen-free environments and is found in abundance at the bottom of lakes.

Schematic illustration of the incorporation of carbon of aerobic methane oxidizing bacteria (MOB) into the food web of a tropical shallow lake. Particulate and dissolved organic matter (POM and DOM, respectively) of autochthonous and allochthonous origin support anaerobic methane (CH4) formation. CH4 is oxidized by MOB and CH4-derived carbon is transferred to higher trophic levels subsidizing pelagic and benthic organisms, reaching the fish level. Arrows with different colors indicate potential food sources: black- MOB; green- herbivory on phytoplankton and/or plant material; blue- herbivory on bottom filamentous algae; red- carnivory on aquatic and/or terrestrial organisms; brown- detritivory.
Credit: Sanseverino et al., Methane Carbon Supports Aquatic Food Webs to the Fish Level. PLoS ONE 7(8): e42723. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042723

Methane is an organic carbon compound containing the fundamental building block of nearly all living material: carbon. It provides an important source of energy and nutrients for bacteria. Methane is produced in oxygen-free environments and is found in abundance at the bottom of lakes.

The Brazilian post-doctoral researcher in biology and ecology, Angela Sanseverino, has presented a study that shows methane from lakebeds to be present in fish tissue. The study was carried out in cooperation with, inter alia, David Bastviken, Water and Environmental Studies (WES), Linköping University.

Angela Sanseverino has studied a combination of two biomarkers: a stable isotope that indicates the presence of methane along with a specific fatty acid from methane-oxidizing bacteria. The study was carried out on fish and other parts of the food web from a lake in the Pantanal, inland Brazil. The findings of the study have been reported in a recently published article in the online research journal PLoS ONE.

"This is the first time we can say with any great certainty that methane from the lake bed has ended up in fish tissue via the food chain," says David Bastviken. "Isotopic studies have been carried out in the past, but they have been more uncertain as they only related to one biomarker. We now have two independent biomarkers presenting the same results. This considerably increases the certainty of our findings."

"It is like opening a black box. It turns out that carbon, which we thought was lost forever, can return to the food chain."

Methane is taken up by methane oxidizing bacteria, which in turn are eaten by zooplankton and other aquatic organisms. These organisms eventually end up in fish stomachs, meaning that food webs not only feed off organic carbon from plants in the lake or from the surrounding land; but also from deep-lying and oxygen-free, yet carbon-rich, sediment stores where methane is formed.

More studies are being planned to show the potentially vast importance that methane could have on the food chain in different types of lakes and conditions. For example, what happens in Swedish lakes during the winter?

However, David Bastviken does not believe these studies will affect his estimates of the methane emissions from lakes and watercourses. He has previously proven that these have most likely been greatly underestimated in the existing calculations of the global greenhouse gas emissions.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Angela M. Sanseverino, David Bastviken, Ingvar Sundh, Jana Pickova, Alex Enrich-Prast. Methane Carbon Supports Aquatic Food Webs to the Fish Level. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e42723 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042723

Cite This Page:

Linköping Universitet. "How methane becomes fish food." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827074226.htm>.
Linköping Universitet. (2012, August 27). How methane becomes fish food. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827074226.htm
Linköping Universitet. "How methane becomes fish food." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827074226.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

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