Methane Dynamics in a Tropical Serpentinizing Environment: The Santa Elena Ophiolite, Costa Rica Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/7369-9861-1976-5989-CC

is Contribution to the DCO

  • YES

year of publication

  • 2017

abstract

  • Uplifted ultramafic rocks represent an important vector for the transfer of carbon and reducing power from the deep subsurface into the biosphere and potentially support microbial life through serpentinization. This process has a strong influence upon the production of hydrogen and methane, which can be subsequently consumed by microbial communities. The Santa Elena Ophiolite (SEO) on the northwestern Pacific coast of Costa Rica comprises ~250 km2 of ultramafic rocks and mafic associations. The climatic conditions, consisting of strongly contrasting wet and dry seasons, make the SEO a unique hydrogeological setting, where water-rock reactions are enhanced by large storm events (up to 200 mm in a single storm). Previous work on hyperalkaline spring fluids collected within the SEO has identified the presence of microorganisms potentially involved in hydrogen, methane, and methanol oxidation (such as Hydrogenophaga, Methylobacterium, and Methylibium spp., respectively), as well as the presence of methanogenic Archaea (such as Methanobacterium). Similar organisms have also been documented at other serpentinizing sites, however their functions have not been confirmed. SEO's hyperalkaline springs have elevated methane concentrations, ranging from 145 to 900 μM, in comparison to the background concentrations (<0.3 μM). The presence and potential activity of microorganisms involved in methane cycling in serpentinization-influenced fluids from different sites within the SEO were investigated using molecular, geochemical, and modeling approaches. These results were combined to elucidate the bioenergetically favorable methane production and/or oxidation reactions in this tropical serpentinizing environment. The hyperalkaline springs at SEO contain a greater proportion of Archaea and methanogens than has been detected in any terrestrial serpentinizing system. Archaea involved in methanogenesis and anaerobic methane oxidation accounted from 40 to 90% of total archaeal sequences. Genes involved in methanogenic metabolisms were detected from the metagenome of one of the alkaline springs. Methanogenic activities are likely to be facilitated by the movement of nutrients, including dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), from surface water and their infiltration into serpentinizing groundwater. These data provide new insight into methane cycle in tropical serpentinizing environments.

volume

  • 8