Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Methane eatting microbes multiply in Gulf oil spill

The Vancouver Sun
By Renee Schoof, McClatchy News

"WASHINGTON — The number of naturally occurring microbes that eat methane grew surprisingly fast inside a plume spreading from BP's ruptured oil well, an oceanographer who was one of the first to detect the plumes said Tuesday.

Samantha Joye , a marine sciences professor at the University of Georgia at Athens , said it's good news that the microbes are eating the methane. However, the microbes also use oxygen in the water, and Joye said the repercussions of the resulting oxygen depletion aren't yet known.

Joye said she hadn't completed her analysis yet, but that the data so far show that the microbes are much more abundant in the plume than they are in the water layers above and below it.

In lab experiments, the number of microbes nearly doubled in a 24-hour period.

"That's really, really surprising," Joye said. "Clearly the microbial community is responding rapidly and rigorously to the input of oil and gas."' More>>>>

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