Microbial Breakdown of Organic Carbon in the Diverse Sediments of Guaymas Basin

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Adrienne Hoarfrost, Rachel Snider and Carol Arnosti, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
Guaymas Basin is characterized by sediments under conditions ranging from hemipelagic to hydrothermal. This wide range in geochemical contexts results in diverse microbial communities that may have varying abilities to access organic matter. We can address these functional differences by comparing enzyme activities initializing the breakdown of organic matter across these sediment types; however, previous direct measurements of the extracellular hydrolysis of complex organic carbon in sediments are sparse. We measured this first step of heterotrophic processing of organic matter in sediments at 5-10cm and 55-60cm depth from a wide range of environmental settings in Guaymas Basin. Sediment sources included sulfidic seeps on the Sonora Margin, hemipelagic ridge flank sediments, and hydrothermically altered Sonora Margin sediments bordering a methane seep site. Hydrolysis of organic substrates varied by depth and by sediment source, but despite high energy potential and organic carbon load in sulfidic sediments, activity was not highest where hydrothermal influence was highest. These results suggest that heterotrophic breakdown of organic carbon in Guaymas Basin sediments may be sensitive to factors including varying composition of organic carbon available in different sediment types, or differences in microbial community capacities to access specific organic substrates.