Microbial activity in the marine deep biosphere: progress and prospects
- 1Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, ME, USA
- 2Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- 3College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE, USA
- 4College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, OR, USA
- 5Department of Oceanography, University of Hawai'i and Manoa, Honolulu, HI, USA
- 6Marine and Environmental Biology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- 7Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, USA
- 8Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, Solomons, MD, USA
- 9Department of Biology, University of Houston Clear Lake, TX, USA
- 10Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA
- 11Global Undersea Research Unit, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Moss Landing, CA, USA
The vast marine deep biosphere consists of microbial habitats within sediment, pore waters, upper basaltic crust and the fluids that circulate throughout it. A wide range of temperature, pressure, pH, and electron donor and acceptor conditions exists—all of which can combine to affect carbon and nutrient cycling and result in gradients on spatial scales ranging from millimeters to kilometers. Diverse and mostly uncharacterized microorganisms live in these habitats, and potentially play a role in mediating global scale biogeochemical processes. Quantifying the rates at which microbial activity in the subsurface occurs is a challenging endeavor, yet developing an understanding of these rates is essential to determine the impact of subsurface life on Earth's global biogeochemical cycles, and for understanding how microorganisms in these “extreme” environments survive (or even thrive). Here, we synthesize recent advances and discoveries pertaining to microbial activity in the marine deep subsurface, and we highlight topics about which there is still little understanding and suggest potential paths forward to address them. This publication is the result of a workshop held in August 2012 by the NSF-funded Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) “theme team” on microbial activity (www.darkenergybiosphere.org).
Keywords: deep biosphere, IODP, biogeochemistry, sediment, oceanic crust, C-DEBI, subsurface microbiology
Citation: Orcutt BN, LaRowe DE, Biddle JF, Colwell FS, Glazer BT, Reese BK, Kirkpatrick JB, Lapham LL, Mills HJ, Sylvan JB, Wankel SD and Wheat CG (2013) Microbial activity in the marine deep biosphere: progress and prospects. Front. Microbiol. 4:189. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00189
Received: 20 April 2013; Accepted: 20 June 2013;
Published online: 11 July 2013.
Edited by: Axel Schippers
, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany
Copyright © 2013 Orcutt, LaRowe, Biddle, Colwell, Glazer, Reese, Kirkpatrick, Lapham, Mills, Sylvan, Wankel and Wheat. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Beth N. Orcutt, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 60 Bigelow Drive, PO Box 380, East Boothbay, ME 04544, USA. e-mail: email@example.com