Large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane are released from the seabed but liberation of methane to the atmosphere is mitigated by aerobic methanotrophs in the water column. The size and activity of methanotrophic communities are thought to be mainly determined by nutrient and redox dynamics, but little is known about the effects of water mass transport. Here, we show that cold bottom waters at methane seeps west off Svalbard, which contained a large number of aerobic methanotrophs, were rapidly displaced by warmer waters with a considerably smaller methanotrophic community. This water mass exchange, caused by short-term variations of the West Spitsbergen Current strongly reduced methanotrophic activity. Currents are common at many methane seeps and could thus be a globally important control on methane oxidation in the water column.
Helmholtz Research Programs > PACES II (2014-2018) > TOPIC 2: Fragile coasts and shelf sea > WP 2.2: Species interactions in changing and exploited coastal seas