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: An increase in temperature by 2050 may be advantageous to the growth of forage plants

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How Kindle Unlimited compares with Scribd, Oyster

8 hours ago

Amazon is the latest—and largest—company to offer unlimited e-books for a monthly fee. Here's how Kindle Unlimited, which Amazon announced Friday, compares with rivals Scribd and Oyster.

NASA sees powerful thunderstorms in Tropical Storm Matmo

9 hours ago

Strong thunderstorms reaching toward the top of the troposphere circled Tropical Storm Matmo's center and appeared in a band of thunderstorms on the storm's southwestern quadrant. Infrared imagery from NASA's ...

ISS 'space truck' launch postponed: Arianespace

11 hours ago

The July 24 launch of a robot ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station has been postponed "for a few days", space transport firm Arianespace said Friday.

Recommended for you

Smarter than a first-grader?

3 hours ago

In Aesop's fable about the crow and the pitcher, a thirsty bird happens upon a vessel of water, but when he tries to drink from it, he finds the water level out of his reach. Not strong enough to knock over ...

How honey bees stay cool

15 hours ago

Honey bees, especially the young, are highly sensitive to temperature and to protect developing bees, adults work together to maintain temperatures within a narrow range. Recently published research led by ...

User comments : 0