Following the greatest environmental catastrophe in recent history, the lowest life forms among us have been the biggest heroes. Once again, scientists have found that bacteria ate up the remnants of the the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Within four months of the oil spill, bacterial blooms had removed more than 200,000 metric tons of dissolved methane, returning concentrations to normal background levels.
That was a surprise, because in mid-June, scientists found methane concentrations nearly 100,000 times above normal levels, and learned it was decomposing slowly, suggesting it would take years for the hydrocarbon to dissipate.
"We couldn't have been more wrong. It decomposed rather quickly and was completely consumed within a matter of months," said lead researcher John Kessler, an oceanographer at Texas A&M University, in a news release.
Kessler and colleagues took three cruises aboard the NOAA ship Pisces between Aug. 18 and Oct. 4, collecting 207 separate water samples and measuring their oxygen and methane concentrations. Oxygen drops when bacteria breathe methane, so the researchers say the depleted oxygen levels can only be explained by consumption of the methane.
They also examined the genetic sequences of bacteria in the samples, which suggested a growing population of methane-munching life forms.
Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, was to blame for the spill in the first place — on April 20, a methane bubble surged from the Macondo well up the Deepwater Horizon's drill column, busting several seals as it belched toward the rig. The resulting explosion killed 11 workers and severed the rig from the well, allowing oil to spew forth for 83 days.
As workers attempted to burn, vacuum, sponge and contain the oil, invisible microbial communities were hard at work. Scientists said last August that a previously undiscovered species of bacteria had made quick work of a massive oil plume; apparently methanotrophs, species of methane-munching bacteria, were also feasting on the spill.
Bacteria have evolved to live with the Gulf's naturally occurring oil seeps and high methane concentrations, so it makes sense that they were ready to go to work. Apparently they are more effective than we thought.
As with any controversial study, not everyone was satisfied with the results — Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University, told NPR the team did not account for deep-sea currents that could have carried away the methane. Further studies will shed more light on the findings.
Isn't it amazing what God has created in His infinite wisdom? Praise be to God for fixing our mess.
Big mistake in the first sentence. BP execs are the lowest life forms, not the bacteria.
yes let's thank the giant bearded wizard in the sky for this right? i can't stand religious mumbo jumbo on this site.
Haven't we realized already that the earth can take better care of itself than we can?
If you believe that God created the world, then believe He loves us enough to clean up after us when we mess things up, just like parents love their children enough not to be angry when a kid gets into the paint and makes a mess all over the walls.
If you don't believe in God, then believe that the earth has been around a lot longer than we have and is probably more resilient than we think. I seriously doubt that we're able to undo in several hundred years' worth of industrialism what developed over millions of years of evolution.
We should be over this religion nonsense by now.
I appreciate your opinion. That opinion is what gave us separation of church and state. Freedom of religion or in your case beliefs. It's also your skepticism that gives us the diversity in science and the rest of life to not simply take the word of the "religious establishment" of any religion without any question at all. Your opinions are a valuable asset to humanity.
Just out of curiosity, what would your reaction be had I made a similar comment towards you? I hope that you would respect the opinions of others as much as I'm sure you wish your opinions to be respected. And last, if you "can't stand religious mumbo jumbo" perhaps you should simply ignore the posts like that and add your own thoughts rather than simply attacking others.
"hope that you would respect the opinions of others as much as I'm sure you wish your opinions to be respected"
Oh PLEASE are you kidding me god types have been imposing there stupid religious beliefs on people for thousands of year normally under the threat of death if you choose not to believe it (think crusades or jihad) so time for you to leave our popular SCIENCE site alone and go preach on bible.com or some other relegious site.. we dont go there to bother you
You're right, they have. I'm not. To really understand that, you have to understand that no one is perfect and I am the first to call myself imperfect. And I do hope that you would respect other opinions as you wish yours to be respected. That's not imposing a belief, that's making a request to be civil towards one another.
Preach eh? If you call defending my opinions/beliefs preaching than I'd say you're a hypocrite as well as everyone else who defends their opinions. I simply stated what I perceived about the article. In any of the comments have I ever tried to persuade anyone to believe in God? While I do does not mean you must. You are a person with a free will of your own. And no I will not leave "your" popular SCIENCE site alone. It's the property of Popular Science Technology Group which is a Bonnier Corporation Company. That's at the bottom of every page by the way. They have setup this blog as public domain and when they deem my comments offensive, I will cease because I respect their authority. Until then, I have just the same freedom as you to say what I believe.
Last, I'm sorry if you feel that I'm on a vendetta to "bother you" on this site. I'm not and to do so would be a pointless waste of my time.
3ddraft, go home... Your opinion shouldn't be a question, that opens you up for a conversation. In this case an attack, because you were brainwashed enough to try and spread your faith in the "bearded wizard in the sky"... haha
You're right, an attack isn't a conversation. My question wasn't directed at anyone who doesn't believe in God. It was directed at fellow believers. And yes as crazy as it seems, there are other people who believe in God reading this site. However, because of people who persecute us because of our beliefs and because our God is one of peace, we tend to lay low. Mostly out of respect of you and a desire for peace.
I am surprised that anyone is surprised by this.
Bacteria have very short and very procreative lives. The limits on their populations are environmental in nature and are naturally balancing.
Think of it this way, if I had a thousand tons of grain and a male mouse, it would take millions of years for it to eat all the grain - until I added a female mouss - then it would take two years.
We are not done with all of the consequence (the bacterial blooms will die when the easy hydrocarbons are gone and then have to decomp themselves, etc). So long, however, and the gulf stays warm (faster chemical reactions) and moving (distribution of chemicals, like O2), then bacteria will work off any amount of hydrocarbon dumped into it.
After all, there is chemically very little difference between a oil spill and the fertilizer induced algae blooms that have created dead zones for the Gulf to break down for decades.
I agree, it seems like we missed the bullet on this one mostly because like it says, the Gulf ecosystem has already adapted to naturally higher content of hydrocarbons. Makes you wonder how the scientists missed this.
"our God is one of peace" lol ... sure he is ssuuuurreeee he is this is the same god that destroyed the whole world in a flood to get rid of the evil.. very peaceful solution there... genocide... or the 2 cities who where minding there own business having a sausage fest and not worshiping him... i was raised catholic i know how evil your god is.
I believe that happened. However, I also believe that He is the one true God and so I don't see those events in the same way you do. To argue that on this blog would take the blog further from what it's supposed to be on. People's opinions of the article. I believe you wrong but I still respect your opinion and I respect others who are simply reading all of this. That being the case, I'm not going to get into why you're wrong.
I'm sorry that you're such an angry person that you must try to get others to be just as angry as you are. I wish you the best.
Wow, jeez, I come to read a story about bacteria and I find a bunch of arguing.
Any good scientist will recognize that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. So let's all quit arguing about it.
For you haters out there, hatred and/or derision of something is just as much a religion as the religions you openly deride, so quit making yourselves look ignorant and hypocritical.
For you God believers, you're certainly not doing yourselves or your causes any favors by opening discussions on God in these comments.
Now, back to the bacteria, who seem to be better than us since they don't waste time hating or arguing on message boards. =)
not angry just pointing out your flawed logic i am not religous but i read religious text as there is history in them you should take heed from the book
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. 5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.
not also it says the Sons of god came in to the daughters of men (note the distinction between god and men) so jesus is not the only son of god per the bible itself .. foolish is your belief in the writings of man
#1 Seriously guys the religion thing has been done to death ENOUGH!
#2 The lowest form of life is the climate scientist. 6 months ago we would have been grade A morons to argue that this wasn't going to kill all life in the gulf and shut down the gulf stream. Ooops, I guess arrogantly declaring that you can predict the outcome of a highly complex system when you don't even know the variables let alone understand them should only be left to people who predict global warming.
I'm not too sure I believe this.
Amazing, the arrogance of homo sapiens.
I agree, lets get this back on the article. However, my belief in God is what helps me create my opinions and perceptions on science. Because of that, I cannot deny God's hand in this world. Therefore, if I feel like posting a comment opening like I did, I will. This is still a public forum.
Read the rest of the Bible and you will find many scriptures stating without doubt that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. The "sons" your quoting is a term used to describe a group of people. And the Bible is not the writings of men. It is the Word of God recorded by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. To accept this and not argue it till the end of the world you must accept Jesus Christ as your savior. Because of that and your willingness to refute all of my arguments, I will cease on this subject. Let the blog get back to the bacteria. Thank you and I wish you the best.
This article angers me. Of all the hydrocarbons released from the Deepwater Horizon well, Methane is of the least concern. Considering how easily Methane can dissipate into the atmosphere, I find their conclusion dubious. Even if it was true, so what? It's the heavier hydrocarbons that do the most damage to the environment. The article angers me because a less educated person might conclude that the oil spill is now cleaned up. That is certainly not true, not by a long shot.
I recently watched a scary documentary film,Global Dimming,which strongly suggested that particulate pollution in the atmosphere is counter-acting global warming caused by greenhouse gases by reducing the amount of solar energy reaching the ground.As we are reducing particulate pollution using power-plant scrubbers and catalytic converters on vehicles,the cleaner air will allow global warming to accelerate,because more solar radiation will reach the earth,and thereby support the warming caused by GHGs.If GW does accelerate,the glacier cover over Greenland and the polar icecaps could melt sooner than expected.This is a major problem,as methane trapped under the frozen ground would be released in huge amounts (trillions of tons) into the atmosphere.As methane is many times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2,we could see runaway global warming that would threaten our very existence.Reading this story,our only hope might be the methane eating bacteria seen in the gulf..
jcbullen, "religious mumbo jumbo"? How can you refer to the praise of God for helping clean up the oil mess in a negative manner? Regardless of whether or not you are a believer in any sort of religion or higher Being, it is not fair to generalize valid comments which thank God for something. It only shows your lack of mental and emotional capability to accept other beliefs. As far as the "bearded wizard" quip, your blasphemy only declares louder your already struggling character.
@3ddraft: You are a menace and a villain. I am sure a majority of people would agree, you should kept your god to yourself in such non-religious related posts. I personally think religion is a plague and creates much hate, similar to that of the Nazis. You sir are a god Troll inserting gods "superiority" where you feel fit. Just as racist comments offend non-racist, your injection of god when not needed and fanning fires is offensive to some and morally questionable.
Props 3ddraft... even though your post is religious based, it pertains to the article (the bacteria cleanup). Anyone who bashes on your post is simply being a hypocrite because they are on the opposite end of the exact same spectrum (religion / anti-religion). Check your own eye before you point out the spec in someone elses (yes, religious pun intended)
I find the story interesting, but not really surprising. Nature has an ability to balance itself that we have not yet begun to understand. We, of course, do not help when we screw up in such a big way as this catastrophe. We do have a long way to go before nature can rebalance itself and we can help or hurt.
However, the earth is dying, just as we are; we can only speed its demise or slow it down. We must choose to act responsibly, using the best information we have and avoid irrational responses.
@merlinus....sorry, but the earth is far from dying.
It may change to a point where it cannot sustain humans, but until the big yellow object in the sky fries it; it will continue as it has for billions of years.
And while I agree that we need to act responsibly, using the best information we have and avoid irrational responses;
we dont have as much impact as you think. Not to the earth at least on the whole....just mainly ourselves.
To piggyback on CDales1004 point and in keeping with the introduced religious theme whose willing to take a bet that the methane eating bacteria will outlast the human race - God or no God?
@3ddraft i agree with you about everything until you said Jesus was the only Son of God.. Jesus is the "only begotten Son of God" begotten - generated by procreation. All the other Sons of God were created. And jesus was their when they were created according to the bible.