Nitrous oxide from ocean microbes

Dec 10, 2007

A large amount of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide is produced by bacteria in the oxygen poor parts of the ocean using nitrites, Dr Mark Trimmer told journalists at a Science Media Centre press briefing today.

Dr Trimmer looked at nitrous oxide production in the Arabian Sea, which accounts for up to 18 % of global ocean emissions. He found that the gas is primarily produced by bacteria trying to make nitrogen gas.

“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 from Queen Mary, University of London. “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.”

Gas produced at this depth could escape to the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas some 300 times more so than carbon dioxide, it also attacks the ozone layer and causes acid rain.

“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.”

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Efforts to save rare northern white rhino continue

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Atmospheric chemistry hinges on better physics model

Oct 06, 2014

New theoretical physics models could help us better grasp the atmospheric chemistry of ozone depletion. Indeed, understanding photoabsorption of nitrous oxide (N2O) - a process which involves the transfer of the energy of ...

Greenhouse gases from farmland underestimated

Apr 02, 2013

(Phys.org)—Changes in agricultural practices could reduce soil emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and the atmospheric pollutant nitric oxide, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, ...

Aquatic 'dead zones' contributing to climate change

Mar 11, 2010

The increased frequency and intensity of oxygen-deprived "dead zones" along the world's coasts can negatively impact environmental conditions in far more than just local waters. In the March 12 edition of the journal Science, Univer ...

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

23 hours ago

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.