Co-Occurrence of Nitrate Reduction and Anaerobic Oxidation of Methane in Gulf of Mexico Cold Seep Habitats

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Lindsey Fields, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States and Samantha Benton Joye, Univ Georgia, Athens, GA, United States
Cold seeps are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico; they are fuelled by methane gas and hydrocarbon seepage at the seafloor and support diverse chemosynthetic microbial communities. Microorganisms form the base of the food chain at cold seeps, and high rates of anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) are characteristic of these methane-rich environments. While sulfate is often the electron acceptor for AOM in cold seep environments, recent evidence suggests that AOM can also be coupled to nitrate reduction. Little is known about nitrogen cycling in these habitats, though recent work indicates that denitrification is an important process in oily and gassy seep sediments. The co-occurrence of nitrate reduction and AOM suggests a potential coupling between the two processes in our study area. We used stable isotope (15N) tracer techniques to measure the capacity of Northern Gulf of Mexico cold seep sediments to reduce nitrate by denitrification and anammox. These measurements were made in surface and sub-surface sediments in conjunction with measurements of AOM, and with quantification of various geochemical and molecular characteristics. Here, we present our measurements of denitrification and anammox capacity in the context of environmental characteristics. Additionally, we examine spatial trends in the co-occurrence of AOM and nitrate reduction in these sediments.