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Microbial life in deep subseafloor coal beds

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      Global distribution of microbial abundance and biomass in subseafloor sediment.

      The global geographic distribution of subseafloor sedimentary microbes and the cause(s) of that distribution are largely unexplored. Here, we show that total microbial cell abundance in subseafloor sediment varies between sites by ca. five orders of magnitude. This variation is strongly correlated with mean sedimentation rate and distance from land. Based on these correlations, we estimate global subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance to be 2.9⋅10(29) cells [corresponding to 4.1 petagram (Pg) C and ∼0.6% of Earth's total living biomass]. This estimate of subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance is roughly equal to previous estimates of total microbial abundance in seawater and total microbial abundance in soil. It is much lower than previous estimates of subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance. In consequence, we estimate Earth's total number of microbes and total living biomass to be, respectively, 50-78% and 10-45% lower than previous estimates.
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        Microbial life under extreme energy limitation.

        A great number of the bacteria and archaea on Earth are found in subsurface environments in a physiological state that is poorly represented or explained by laboratory cultures. Microbial cells in these very stable and oligotrophic settings catabolize 10⁴- to 10⁶-fold more slowly than model organisms in nutrient-rich cultures, turn over biomass on timescales of centuries to millennia rather than hours to days, and subsist with energy fluxes that are 1,000-fold lower than the typical culture-based estimates of maintenance requirements. To reconcile this disparate state of being with our knowledge of microbial physiology will require a revised understanding of microbial energy requirements, including identifying the factors that comprise true basal maintenance and the adaptations that might serve to minimize these factors.
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          Endospore abundance, microbial growth and necromass turnover in deep sub-seafloor sediment.

          Two decades of scientific ocean drilling have demonstrated widespread microbial life in deep sub-seafloor sediment, and surprisingly high microbial-cell numbers. Despite the ubiquity of life in the deep biosphere, the large community sizes and the low energy fluxes in this vast buried ecosystem are not yet understood. It is not known whether organisms of the deep biosphere are specifically adapted to extremely low energy fluxes or whether most of the observed cells are in a dormant, spore-like state. Here we apply a new approach--the D:L-amino-acid model--to quantify the distributions and turnover times of living microbial biomass, endospores and microbial necromass, as well as to determine their role in the sub-seafloor carbon budget. The approach combines sensitive analyses of unique bacterial markers (muramic acid and D-amino acids) and the bacterial endospore marker, dipicolinic acid, with racemization dynamics of stereo-isomeric amino acids. Endospores are as abundant as vegetative cells and microbial activity is extremely low, leading to microbial biomass turnover times of hundreds to thousands of years. We infer from model calculations that biomass production is sustained by organic carbon deposited from the surface photosynthetic world millions of years ago and that microbial necromass is recycled over timescales of hundreds of thousands of years.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
            Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
            Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
            0027-8424
            1091-6490
            October 31 2017
            October 31 2017
            : 114
            : 44
            : 11568-11570
            10.1073/pnas.1716232114
            © 2017

            http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/userlicense.xhtml

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