Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Multiple carbon incorporation strategies support microbial survival in cold subseafloor crustal fluids

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Science Advances  28 Apr 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 18, eabg0153
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg0153


Biogeochemical processes occurring in fluids that permeate oceanic crust make measurable contributions to the marine carbon cycle, but quantitative assessments of microbial impacts on this vast, subsurface carbon pool are lacking. We provide bulk and single-cell estimates of microbial biomass production from carbon and nitrogen substrates in cool, oxic basement fluids from the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The wide range in carbon and nitrogen incorporation rates indicates a microbial community well poised for dynamic conditions, potentially anabolizing carbon and nitrogen at rates ranging from those observed in subsurface sediments to those found in on-axis hydrothermal vent environments. Bicarbonate incorporation rates were highest where fluids are most isolated from recharging bottom seawater, suggesting that anabolism of inorganic carbon may be a potential strategy for supplementing the ancient and recalcitrant dissolved organic carbon that is prevalent in the globally distributed subseafloor crustal environment.

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