sail-world.com
 
 
News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery

 

Sail-World.com : WHOI Study - Microbes consumed oil in Gulf slick at unexpected rates

WHOI Study - Microbes consumed oil in Gulf slick at unexpected rates

'From the deck of the research vessel Endeavor, Ben Van Mooy (right) and others survey the scene near the burning Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in June, 2010. Van Mooy was a member of a team of WHOI scientists who went to the Gulf to study aspects of the oil spill, including how fast it was flowing out of the ruptured wellhead and whether it was flowing in a deep plume of hydrocarbons. Van Mooy’s experiments focused on whether microbes were eating oil in the surface slick and in'    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) ©

More than a year after the largest oil spill in history, perhaps the dominant lingering question about the Deepwater Horizon spill is, 'What happened to the oil?' Now, in the first published study to explain the role of microbes in breaking down the oil slick on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) researchers have come up with answers that represent both surprisingly good news and a head-scratching mystery.

In research scheduled to be published in the Aug. 2 online edition of Environmental Research Letters, the WHOI team studied samples from the surface oil slick and surrounding Gulf waters. They found that bacterial microbes inside the slick degraded the oil at a rate five times faster than microbes outside the slick—accounting in large part for the disappearance of the slick some three weeks after Deepwater Horizon’s Macondo well was shut off.

At the same time, the researchers observed no increase in the number of microbes inside the slick—something that would be expected as a byproduct of increased consumption, or respiration, of the oil. In this process, respiration combines food (oil in this case) and oxygen to create carbon dioxide and energy.

'What did they do with the energy they gained from this increased respiration?' asked WHOI chemist Benjamin Van Mooy, senior author of the study. 'They didn’t use it to multiply. It’s a real mystery,' he said.

Van Mooy and his team were nearly equally taken aback by the ability of the microbes to chow down on the oil in the first place. Going into the study, he said, 'We thought microbe respiration was going to be minimal.' This was because nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus—usually essential to enable microbes to grow and make new cells—were scarce in the water and oil in the slick. 'We thought the microbes would not be able to respond,' Van Mooy said.

But the WHOI researchers found, to the contrary, that the bacteria not only responded, but did so at a very high rate. They discovered this by using a special sensor called an oxygen optode to track the changing oxygen levels in water samples taken from the slick. If the microbes were respiring slowly, then oxygen levels would decrease slowly; if they respired quickly, the oxygen would decrease quickly.

'We found that the answer was ‘quick,’' Van Mooy said. 'By a lot.'

Bethanie Edwards, a biochemist in Van Mooy’s lab and lead author of the paper, said she too was 'very surprised' by the amount of oil consumption by the microbes. 'It’s not what we expected to see.' She added that she was also 'a little afraid' that oil companies and others might use the results to try to convince the public that spills can do relatively little harm. 'They could say, ‘Look, we can put oil into the environment and the microbes will eat it,’' she said.

A new technique for determing the concentration of oxygen in a liquid sample uses a laser (coming from the green fiber, right) and an oxygen-sensitive sticker called an optode (pale spot) inside the sample bottle. When struck by the laser, the sticker fluoresces; the wavelength of the light it gives off indicates the concentration of oxygen in the fluid around it. WHOI chemist Ben Van Mooy used this method to monitor microbial activity in samples of water taken from within and outside the oil sl -  Woods Hole Oceanographic?nid=87523 Institution (WHOI) ©  
Edwards, a graduate student in the joint MIT/WHOI program, pointed out that this is not completely the case, because oil is composed of a complex mixture molecules, some of which the microbes are unable to break down.

'Oil is still detrimental to the environment, ' she said, 'because the molecules that are not accessible to microbes persist and could have toxic effects.' These are the kinds of molecules that can get into the food web of both offshore and shoreline environments, Edwards and Van Mooy said. In addition, Edwards added, the oil that is consumed by microbes 'is being converted to carbon dioxide that still gets into the atmosphere.'

Follow-up studies already 'are in place,' Van Mooy says, to address the 'mysterious' finding that the oil-gorging microbes do not appear to manufacture new cells. If the microbes were eating the oil at such a high rate, what did they do with the energy?

Van Mooy, Edwards, and their colleagues hypothesize that they may convert the energy to some other molecule, like sugars or fats. They plan to use 'state-of-the-art methods' under development in their laboratory to look for bacterial fat molecules, a focus of Van Mooy’s previous work. The results, he says, 'could show where the energy went.'

Van Mooy said he isn’t sure exactly what fraction of the oil loss in the spill is due to microbial consumption; other processes, including evaporation, dilution, and dispersion, might have contributed to the loss of the oil slick. But the five-fold increase in the microbe respiration rate suggests it contributed significantly to the oil breakdown.

'Extrapolating our observations to the entire area of the oil slick supports the assertion microbes had the potential to degrade a large fraction of the oil as it arrived at the surface from the well,' the researchers say in their paper.

'This is the first published study to put numbers on the role of microbes in the degradation of the oil slick,' said Van Mooy. 'Our study shows that the dynamic microbial community of the Gulf of Mexico supported remarkable rates of oil respiration, despite a dearth of dissolved nutrients,' the researchers said.

Edwards added that the results suggest 'that microbes had the metabolic potential to break down a large portion of hydrocarbons and keep up with the flow rate from the wellhead.'

Also participating in the study from WHOI were researchers Christopher M. Reddy, Richard Camilli, Catherine A. Carmichael, and Krista Longnecker.

The research was supported by RAPID grants from the National Science Foundation.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution website

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment.




by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=87523

9:45 PM Sat 20 Aug 2011 GMT






Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.


News - USA and the World

Volvo Ocean Race: Leg 1 turns inside out in Doldums *Feature by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz
As reported earlier Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race would seem to have gone from being a tightly fought contest to being a procession to Cape Town. Even though only 40% of the course has been sailed, the distance between the boats are significant (other than the two lead boats) and look set to increase. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race: Blogs from the Boats - Leg 1, Day 10 plus Videos *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.nz/com
Several of the On Board Reporters aboard, provide their unique views of Leg 1, Day 10 of the Volvo Ocean Race - in text, images and video: You know when you try to stick two positive magnets together and regardless as to how close you get them they never touch? Well, the ITCZ is a bit like that. ... [more]  

Student Yachting World Cup - After those days of sun and light air, the weather was upside-down with a cloudy sky threatening us of heavy shower at any time and a strong wind fluctuating from 15 knots to 25 knots! Two windward-leeward races took place today as the wind became far too heavy in the early afternoon. The 13th race began this morning: a second start occurred under black flag. ... [more]  

2014 Argo Group Gold Cup - Over the last few days there have been frantic phone calls between travel agents from competitors at the Argo Group Gold Cup, the sixth stage and the oldest event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. Over Friday night and into Saturday the Category Three Hurricane Gonzalo passed directly over Bermuda pummelling it with 100+ knot winds. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race: Big gains for two boats in Doldrums *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz
Two boats have made big gains in the Doldrums, with the western-most competitors apparently not stopping and sailing though the convergence zone between northern and southern hemispheres, without dropping below 8kts. Team Brunel and Abh Dhabi Ocean Racing have both made big gains on the rest of the fleet - and the two easternmost boats - Team Vestas Wind and Mapfre, in particular. ... [more]  

In spite of Hurricane Gonzalo's thrashing of the Onion Patch last week, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the people of Bermuda are ready to host the 2014 Argo Group Gold Cup, Stage 6 of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT). All 20 teams have arrived safely from their corners of the world and will practice for a day and race on Wednesday. ... [more]  

While the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup always offers opportunities for young people to have new experiences, coping with Hurricane Gonzalo offered the 14 competitors traveling from overseas to Bermuda a hurdle that strengthened their respect for this island nation. Many of the 14 competitors spent layover time in either hotels or airports and some are now guests in homes without electricity. ... [more]  

Dynamic Stability Systems welcomes last week’s decision by IMOCA to place no further restrictions on its class rule. This permits both the six new IMOCA 60s currently under construction, as well as the existing fleet, to be fitted with the lateral lifting foils which DSS has spent the last decade pioneering. ... [more]  

Groupe Beneteau today announced its sponsorship of the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider and ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. Groupe Beneteau is the world's leading yacht builder, and will now become a significant presence in high-performance sailing with its support of both the US national sailing team and North America's premier Olympic and Paralympic classes regatta. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. It’s the place where the northern and southern winds meet, where a sailing race can be won or lost in an instant. And with its complex and confusing conditions, lack of breeze, and stifling heat – it’s also a place that most sailors can’t wait to see the back of. But there is one good thing about the Doldrums. ... [more]  

The Atlantic has proved to be a test for the VO65s in the Volvo Ocean Race and their teams as a battle of gybing down the west coast of Africa broke out, keeping all boats in a relatively tight-knit pack for much longer than expected. Having passed Morocco and the Canaries, we were drawn to the tricky-to-handle magnet of Cape Verde. ... [more]  

It’s the dawn of a complicated day in the Volvo Ocean Race. Let’s face it: we’re not having a very good time on Dongfeng. We lost distance last night, and our leading position. The day got dull afterwards. Sailing straight ahead, with the spinnaker up, in light winds. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, Day 10 onboard Team SCA. Two days, eight hours, thirty-four minutes, and ten seconds, nine seconds, eight, seven, six, five… over the last few days the clock has gotten louder and louder as it counts down to October 23rd at noon—the time when we cross the equator and the time when myself and six other sailors join the rest of our crew in King Neptune’s court. ... [more]  

For Pablo Arrarte Elorza, the Volvo Ocean Race is a tough challenge. Not as far as physical effort is concerned because this likeable Spaniard is a very strong guy. For Pablo, the race is mostly a culinary war of attrition because the food that the team has bought with it on the race does little to please his gourmet palate. ... [more]  

The 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds kicked off on October 20th in Clearwater, USA, and it was hard work from the start: in 5-6 kt of breeze, offshore to start the day and side-on to close it, pumping was in order for the 54 boys and 28 girls gathered here for the 2014 RS:X Youth World Windsurfing Championships. ... [more]  

The team at The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta are very happy to announce that entries are now open for the 2015 Regatta, taking place March 5 - 8. The team hopes to see lots of return entries as well as new ones this year, all coming to celebrate the event's 35th year. In order to celebrate this milestone year, there will be some new features this coming season. ... [more]  

After three complete days at sea only three boats competing in the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race have passed the northwest tip of Sicily, roughly the halfway point of the race. The prevailing wind remains weak, but is expected to strengthen this afternoon coinciding with the arrival of bulk of the fleet t the Egadi Islands. ... [more]  

Last week the Volvo Ocean Race was all about VMG downwind sailing, with Dongfeng being the star performer. After DFRT took the lead, they shortly lost it again 36 hours later after hitting something in the water and losing their rudder. Two hours later they were up and running again with the spare in. Impressive stuff. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race: Blogs from the Boats - Leg 1, Day 9 plus Videos *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.nz/com
Several of the On Board Reporters aboard, provide their unique views of Leg 1, Day 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race - in text, images and video. ... [more]  

Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 - Fight to the finish by Media Royal Malta Yacht Club
Igor Simicic's maxi, Esimit Europa 2 is expected to finish the Rolex Middle Sea Race in the early hours of tomorrow morning. However the 100ft carbon fibre canting keel Maxi is under serious pressure to secure their fourth Line Honours victory in the race. ... [more]  

Italy won two races (windward-leeward race (ninth race) and coastal race (11th race), Switzerland won the second race of the day (10th race) and Ireland the last one (12th race). A lot of tactics was required to make best use of the little wind. The first race (windward-leeward race, 0,8nm) started at four knots. A second start under black flag happened. ... [more]  

PredictWind have made significant improvements to the swell forecasting models and added new locations. Integrating the new 50km global wind forecast with ocean current data has created the most advanced swell modelling available online. By combining PredictWind forecast data with ocean current data, the effect of the wind on swells can be accounted for ... [more]  

The battle continues for the lead in the Volvo Ocean Race, with the front running being taken up by different competitors on a regular basis. With the first boats about to enter the Doldrums, anything can happen - with the outcome being decided by navigational skill and experience, rather than being resolved on a computer. ... [more]  

The Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup, now in its 12th year, is known around the world as an international championship of junior champions. It runs parallel to the penultimate event on the World Match Racing Tour, the Argo Group Gold Cup. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race: Fleet charges the door of the Doldrums Casino *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz
The Volvo Ocean Race has lifted intensity again on Day 9 with the fleet spread across 100nm of ocean and charging in a line for the turning point of Fernando de Noronha, 220nm off the Brazilian coast. ... [more]  

As expected the third day of the 2014 La Torche PWA Grand Slam proved to be a quiet affair with very light winds throughout the day. After a chilly and overcast start, the sun eventually broke through to produce another beautiful afternoon in La Torche. ... [more]  

The first eight days of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race have been filled with more excitement and tighter racing than anyone could have anticipated. Up until Saturday morning, Leg One has left the fleet with few tactical options and therefore has kept everyone tightly packed as one unit of seven boats. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. The sun’s out. It’s warm – not too hot, but warm enough for just a tee shirt. Ian Walker is stood at the helm of his Emirati boat, generous Atlantic trade winds whistling past his ears. 'We’re going straight through,' he claims, confidently. 'What Doldrums? - they’re going to say. Azzam isn’t even going to slow down.' ... [more]  

At 1700 CET in the Rolex Middle Sea Race, 113 yachts had rounded Stromboli, the active volcano that marks the most northerly point of the course. Race leader on the water, Esimit Europa 2, was less than 20 miles from Favignana and preparing to turn south with 289 miles to go and is expected to finish the race in the early hours of Wednesday 22 October, which would be well outside the course record ... [more]  

It is with great pleasure that the Star Sailors League announces that two more top Brazilian sailors will be joining the fleet of 20 super-champions taking part in the Star Sailors League Finals 2014 being held for the second consecutive year at Nassau Yacht Club in the Bahamas between December 1st and 7th. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, Day Nine onboard Team Alvimedica. It’s hard to explain the complexity of the weather in this part of the world. No computer model or forecaster can accurately predict the winds because the air here is dry and warm, 23c now, and the typical barometric pressure gradients that generate them become very weak. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, Day Nine onboard Team SCA. We’re a boat on a mission: catch the fleet. And they’re getting closer by the mile. The first time I sailed past Cape Verde islands was in 2010 when I was helping deliver a catamaran from Gibraltar to Antigua, W.I. ... [more]  

Thailand bids for 2016 IODA ‘Optimist’ World Championships by Jordan Rumsby, Royal Varuna Yacht Club
Pattaya's Royal Varuna Yacht Club has submitted a bid to host the 2016 International Optimist Dinghy Association World Championships, offering the world's most talented junior sailing teams a chance to experience the steady wind, sunshine, smiles, great food, and family-friendly attractions of Thailand's top dinghy sailing destination ... [more]  

Farr 40 Worlds: Prizegiving images from the Final day in San Francisco
Bill Green - builder and sailor passes on
ISAF World Sailing Rankings – 20 October 2014
Farr 40 Worlds: Images from the Final day in San Francisco *Feature
Farr 40 Worlds: Images from Day 2 in San Francisco *Feature
Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 - A hard day's night
34th Student Yachting World Cup 2014 - Second race day
Volvo Ocean Race: Dongfeng loses lead, anyone's race ahead of Doldrums *Feature
Flying Dreams 'An Ocean Story': The Movie
New super maxis gear up for Rolex Sydney Hobart
Volvo Ocean Race: Blogs from the Boats - Leg 1, Day 8 plus Videos *Feature
Linda Elias Memorial Women’s One Design Challenge - Youngerman wins
2014 Off Valparaíso Race - Santander team victorious
La Torche PWA Grand Slam - Waves continue to pound on day 2
Volvo Ocean Race: Dongfeng consolidates lead on Day 8 *Feature
RS:X Youth World Championships - All set for Clearwater action
Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 - Slow road north
Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 – Dongfeng Race Team - A risky call
Rolex Middle Sea Race 2014 - Escaping the shroud of Mount Etna
Farr 40 Worlds: Day 4 Image and Video gallery *Feature
Australian 18 Footers League’s Major A. Frizelle Trophy   
Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 - Leader gambles on Island windshadow   
2014 Sailing World Cup Qingdao - Final day video highlights   
2014 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship - Plenty of time   
Coast Guard rescues two near Wachapreague   
2014 Off Valparaíso Race - Day 2   
La Torche PWA Grand Slam - Massive swell on day 1   
Volvo Ocean Race: Welcome to Al's Ocean Cafe   
Argo Group Gold Cup survives Hurricane Gonzalo   
Volvo Ocean Race: Dongfeng regains lead after incident packed Day 7 *Feature   
Volvo Ocean Race: Dramatic video of Dongfeng rudder replacement   
Volvo Ocean Race - Team Alvimedica bounces back   
Volvo Ocean Race - Team SCA expecting the expected + Video   
Rolex Middle Sea Race - New record for Mediterranean classic   
ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao - Medallists decided across six fleets   
Volvo Ocean Race - Impressive turnaround for Dongfeng Race Team +Video   
Volvo Ocean Race: Race closer than leaderboard suggests - Leg 1, Day 6   
Volvo Ocean Race: Dongfeng Race Team break rudder after collision   
2014 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship - Famous breeze frustrates   
2014 Off Valparaíso Race - Day 1   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/RSS-Icon.png

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL WAS US
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT