Reactive transport model of growth and methane production by high-temperature methanogens in hydrothermal regions of the subseafloor
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:00 AM
Hydrogenotrophic methanogens are keystone high-temperature autotrophs in deep-sea hydrothermal vents and tracers of habitability and biogeochemical activity in the hydrothermally active subseafloor. At Axial Seamount, nearly all thermophilic methanogens are Methanothermococcus and Methanocaldococcus species, making this site amenable to modeling through pure culture laboratory experiments coupled with field studies. Based on field microcosm incubations with 1.2 mM, 20 µM, or no hydrogen, the growth of methanogens at 55°C and 80°C is limited primarily by temperature and hydrogen availability, with ammonium amendment showing no consistent effect on total methane output. The Arrhenius constants for methane production by Methanocaldococcus jannaschii (optimum 82°C) and Methanothermococcus thermolithotrophicus (optimum 65°C) were determined in pure culture bottle experiments. The Monod constants for hydrogen concentration were measured by growing both organisms in a 2-liter chemostat at two dilution rates; 55°C, 65°C and 82°C; and variable hydrogen concentrations. M. jannaschii showed higher ks and Vmax constants than M. thermolithotrophicus. In the field, hydrogen and methane concentrations in hydrothermal end-member and low-temperature diffuse fluids were measured, and the concentrations of methanogens that grow at 55°C and 80°C in diffuse fluids were determined using most-probable-number estimates. Methane concentration anomalies in diffuse fluids relative to end-member hydrothermal concentrations and methanogen cell concentrations are being used to constrain a 1-D reactive transport model using the laboratory-determined Arrhenius and Monod constants for methane production by these organisms. By varying flow path length and subseafloor cell concentrations in the model, our goal is to determine solutions for the potential depth of the subseafloor biosphere coupled with the amount of methanogenic biomass it contains.