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Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in marine sediments from the Skagerrak (Denmark): I. Geochemical and microbiological analyses

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Knab,  N. J.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Borowski,  C.
Department of Symbiosis, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Jørgensen,  B. B.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Knab, N. J., Cragg, B. A., Borowski, C., Parkes, R. J., Pancost, R., & Jørgensen, B. B. (2008). Anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in marine sediments from the Skagerrak (Denmark): I. Geochemical and microbiological analyses. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72(12), 2868-2879.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-CD64-8
Abstract
The organic rich sediments of the Skagerrak contain high quantities of shallow gas of mostly biogenic origin that is transported to the sediment surface by diffusion. The sulfate methane transition zone (SMTZ), where anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) and sulfate reduction occur, functions as a methane barrier for this upward diffusing methane. To investigate the regulation of AOM and sulfate reduction rates (SRR) and the controls on the efficiency of methane consumption, pore water concentrations, and microbial rates of AOM, sulfate reduction and methanogenesis were determined in three gravity cores collected along the slope of the Norwegian Trench in the Skagerrak. SRR occurred in two distinct peaks, at the sediment surface and the SMTZ, the latter often exceeding the peak AOM rates that occurred at the bottom of the SMTZ. Highest rates of both AOM and SRR were observed in a core from a pockmark, where advective methane transport occurred, generating high methane and sulfate fluxes. But even at this site with a shallow SMTZ, the entire flux of methane was oxidized below the sediment surface. AOM, SRR and methanogenesis seem to be closely associated and strongly regulated by sulfate concentrations, which were, in turn, regulated by the methane flux. Rate measurements of SRR, AOM and methanogenesis revealed a tight coupling of these processes. Bicarbonate-based methanogenesis occurred at moderate sulfate concentrations (>5 mM) above the AOM zone but seemed to be inhibited in the depth where AOM occurred. The unbalanced stoichiometry of AOM and SRR in the SMTZ was more pronounced in rate measurements than in methane and sulfate fluxes, and seemed more likely be related to enhanced SRR in this zone than an underestimation of methane fluxes.