Monday, December 10, 2007

Oceans Producing Nitrous Oxide? - English Rivers Producing Methane, Though That Can be Used For Energy

A large amount of nitrous oxide is being produced by bacteria in the ocean, according to researchers.

Researcher Dr. Mark Trimmer looked at bacteria in the Arabian Sea. Bacteria there, attempting to make nitrogen, create nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times as powerful as CO2.

"A third of the 'denitrification' that happens in the world's oceans occurs in the Arabian Sea (an area equivalent to France and Germany combined)" said Dr Trimmer. "Oxygen levels decrease as you go deeper into the sea. At around 130 metres there is what we call an oxygen minimum zone where oxygen is low or non-existent. Bacteria that produce nitrous oxide do well at this depth."

"Recent reports suggest increased export of organic material from the surface layers of the ocean under increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. This could cause an expansion of the oxygen minimum zones of the world triggering ever greater emissions of nitrous oxide."

On a separate note, another report from Dr. Trimmer says that English chalk streams release methane.

On another totally separate note, another report suggests methanogens, bacteria that produce methane, can be used to generate power.

"Methanogens are microbes called archaea that are similar to bacteria. They are responsible for the vast majority of methane produced on earth by living things" says Dr Chong from York University. "They use carbon dioxide to make methane, the major flammable component of natural gas. So methanogens could be used to make a renewable, carbon neutral gas substitute."

Methanogens produce about one billion tons of methane every year. They thrive in oxygen-free environments like the guts of cows, sheep, humans and even termites. "Increased human activity causes methane emissions to rise because methanogens grow well in rice paddies, sewage processing plants and landfill sites, which are all made by humans."

"By using methane produced by bacteria as a fuel source, we can reduce the amount released into the atmosphere and use up some carbon dioxide in the process!"

Via :: Science Daily :: Science Daily :: Science Daily