Methane absorbing rocks on ocean beds key to reducing climate change effects, study finds

Global warming has led to warming of the oceans which in turn has threatened the existence of many marine animals. However, a new study has presented a glimmer of hope after it found that microbes found in the ocean floor can absorb methane — a greenhouse gas largely responsible for warming up the Earth.

According to the study published in the National Academy of Sciences journal, microbes found in rocks underwater are more effective at absorbing methane.

The team of 10 scientists found that microorganisms found in the carbonate rocks present in the ocean, like limestone and dolomite, can consume methane 50 times faster than microbes found in the sediments.

These methane sinks can help tackle the rising problem of global warming as greenhouse gas emissions continue to pollute the planet’s atmosphere.

For their study, the scientists conducted a continental-scale survey of seven geologically diverse seafloor seeps. Rocks from all sites hosted methane-oxidizing microbial communities with substantial methanotrophic potential.

Scientists also found that the carbonate rocks found underwater are unique in their formation which might contribute to their unique characteristic of consuming large quantities of methane.

The study describes the rocks as “chimney-like carbonates” that were extracted from the newly described Point Dume seep off the coast of Southern California. This rock exhibited the highest rates of anaerobic methane oxidation measured to date.

After a thorough analysis of the rock that included physicochemical, electrical, and biological factors, the scientists attributed the substantial metabolic activity largely to higher cell density, mineral composition, kinetic parameters, and the presence of particular microbial lineages.