A Reactive-Transport Model Describing Methanogen Growth and Methane Production in Diffuse Flow Vents at Axial Seamount

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 10:35
3009 (Moscone West)
Christopher K Algar, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
Hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis is an important mode of metabolism in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Diffuse vent fluids often show a depletion in hydrogen with a corresponding increase in methane relative to pure-mixing of end member fluid and seawater, and genomic surveys show an enrichment in genetic sequences associated with known methanogens. However, because we cannot directly sample the subseafloor habitat where these organisms are living, constraining the size and activity of these populations remains a challenge and limits our ability to quantify the role they play in vent biogeochemistry. Reactive-transport modeling may provide a useful tool for approaching this problem. Here we present a reactive-transport model describing methane production along the flow-path of hydrothermal fluid from its high temperature end-member to diffuse venting at the seafloor. The model is set up to reflect conditions at several diffuse vents in the Axial Seamount. The model describes the growth of the two dominant thermophilic methanogens, Methanothermococcus and Methanocaldococcus, observed at Axial seamount. Monod and Arrhenius constants for Methanothermococcus thermolithotrophicus and Methanocaldococcus jannaschii were obtained for the model using chemostat and bottle experiments at varying temperatures. The model is used to investigate the influence of different mixing regimes on the subseafloor populations of these methanogens. By varying the model flow path length and subseafloor cell concentrations, and fitting to observed hydrogen and methane concentrations in the venting fluid, the subseafloor biomass, fluid residence time, and methane production rate can be constrained.