Carbon fixation in oceanic crust: Does it happen, and is it important?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Beth Orcutt1, Jason B Sylvan2, Daniel Rogers3, Ray Lee4, Peter R Girguis3, Stephanie A Carr5, Sean Jungbluth6 and Michael S Rappe7, (1)Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science, East Boothbay, ME, United States, (2)USC-Biological Sciences, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (3)Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States, (4)Washington State University, Pullman, WA, United States, (5)Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, United States, (6)University of Hawaii-Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States, (7)University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States
The carbon sources supporting a deep biosphere in igneous oceanic crust, and furthermore the balance of heterotrophy and autotrophy, are poorly understood. When the large reservoir size of oceanic crust is considered, carbon transformations in this environment have the potential to significantly impact the global carbon cycle. Furthermore, igneous oceanic crust is the most massive potential habitat for life on Earth, so understanding the carbon sources for this potential biosphere are important for understanding life on Earth. Geochemical evidence suggests that warm and anoxic upper basement is net heterotrophic, but the balance of these processes in cooler and potentially oxic oceanic crust are poorly known. Here, we present data from stable carbon isotope tracer incubations to examine carbon fixation in basalts collected from the Loihi Seamount, the Juan de Fuca Ridge, and the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, to provide a first order constraint on the rates of carbon fixation on basalts. These data will be compared to recently available assessments of carbon cycling rates in fluids from upper basement to synthesize our current state of understanding of the potential for carbon fixation and respiration in oceanic crust. Moreover, we will present new genomic data of carbon fixation genes observed in the basalt enrichments as well as from the subsurface of the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank, enabling identification of the microbes and metabolic pathways involved in carbon fixation in these systems.