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Distinct methane-dependent biogeochemical states in Arctic seafloor gas hydrate mounds

New publication by Scott A. Klasek, Wei-Li Hong, Marta E. Torres, Stella Ross, Katelyn Hostetler, Alexey Portnov, Friederike Gründger & Frederick S. Colwell


Archaea mediating anaerobic methane oxidation are key in preventing methane produced in marine sediments from reaching the hydrosphere; however, a complete understanding of how microbial communities in natural settings respond to changes in the flux of methane remains largely uncharacterized. We investigate microbial communities in gas hydrate-bearing seafloor mounds at Storfjordrenna, offshore Svalbard in the high Arctic, where we identify distinct methane concentration profiles that include steady-state, recently-increasing subsurface diffusive flux, and active gas seepage. Populations of anaerobic methanotrophs and sulfate-reducing bacteria were highest at the seep site, while decreased community diversity was associated with a recent increase in methane influx. Despite high methane fluxes and methanotroph doubling times estimated at 5–9 months, microbial community responses were largely synchronous with the advancement of methane into shallower sediment horizons. Together, these provide a framework for interpreting subseafloor microbial responses to methane escape in a warming Arctic Ocean.