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Bacteria Keep Undersea Methane Out of the Atmosphere
By Wendy Heller, December 21, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Ens-newswire.com

Today, researchers at the University of California-Santa Barbara said they have discovered that only one percent of the dissolved methane escapes into the air - a finding that is good news for the climate.

Methane heats the Earth 23 times more than the most prevalent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, when averaged over a century, scientists have found.

The potency of methane and the fact that thousands of seep fields exist in the sea floor around the world makes fate of methane bubbles from seeps an important environmental question.

David Valentine, associate professor of Earth Science at UC Santa Barbara who led the study, said the one percent finding enabled the authors to conclude that most of the methane is transported below the ocean's surface - away from the seep area.

Then it is oxidized by microbial activity. "We showed that the currents control the fate of the gas and supply it to bacteria in a way that allows them to destroy the methane," said Valentine.

Coal Oil Point, COP, one of the world's largest and best studied seep regions, is located along the northern margin of the Santa Barbara Channel.

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