Department of Biology

Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Bo Barker Jørgensen

Microbial turnover times in the deep seabed studied by amino acid racemization modelling

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DOI

The study of active microbial populations in deep, energy-limited marine sediments has extended our knowledge of the limits of life on Earth. Typically, microbial activity in the deep biosphere is calculated by transport-reaction modelling of pore water solutes or from experimental measurements involving radiotracers. Here we modelled microbial activity from the degree of D:L-aspartic acid racemization in microbial necromass (remains of dead microbial biomass) in sediments up to ten million years old. This recently developed approach (D:L-amino acid modelling) does not require incubation experiments and is highly sensitive in stable, low-activity environments. We applied for the first time newly established constraints on several important input parameters of the D:L-amino acid model, such as a higher aspartic acid racemization rate constant and a lower cell-specific carbon content of sub-seafloor microorganisms. Our model results show that the pool of necromass amino acids is turned over by microbial activity every few thousand years, while the turnover times of vegetative cells are in the order of years to decades. Notably, microbial turnover times in million-year-old sediment from the Peru Margin are up to 100-fold shorter than previous estimates, highlighting the influence of microbial activities on element cycling over geologic time scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5680
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue1
ISSN2045-2322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017

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  • Journal Article

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