Biodegradability of hydrothermally altered deep-sea dissolved organic matter

berenike.bick [ at ]


Deep-sea dissolved organic matter (DOM) constitutes a huge carbon reservoir in the worlds' oceans that – despite its abundance – is virtually unused as a substrate by marine heterotrophs. Heating within hydrothermal systems induces major molecular modifications of deep-sea DOM. Here, we tested the hypothesis that hydrothermal heating of deep-sea DOM enhances bioavailability. Aliquots of DOM extracted from the deep North Pacific (North Equatorial Pacific Intermediate Water; NEqPIW) were re-dissolved in artificial seawater and subjected to temperatures of 100 and 200 °C (40 MPa) using Dickson-type reactors. In agreement with earlier findings we observed a temperature-related drop in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration (−6.1% at 100 °C, −21.0% at 200 °C) that predominantly affected the solid-phase extractable (SPE-DOC) fraction (−18.2% at 100 °C, −51.4% at 200 °C). Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometric (FT-ICR-MS) analysis confirmed a temperature-related reduction of average molecular mass, O/C ratios, double bond equivalents (DBE) and a relative increase in aromaticity (AImod). This thermally altered DOM was added (25 μmol L−1 DOC) to deep-water samples from the South West Pacific (Kermadec Arc, RV Sonne / SO253, 32° 37.706′ S | 179° 38.728′ W) and incubated with the prevailing natural microbial community. After 16 days at 4 °C in the dark, prokaryotic cell counts in incubations containing the full spectrum of thermally-degraded DOM (extractable and non-extractable compounds) had increased considerably (on average 21× for DOM100°C and 27× for DOM200°C). In contrast, prokaryotic growth in incubations to which only solid-phase extractable thermally-altered DOM was added was not enhanced compared to control incubations. The experiments demonstrate that temperature-driven degradation of deep-sea recalcitrant DOM within hydrothermal systems turns fractions of it accessible to microbes. The thermally-produced DOM compounds that stimulate microbial growth are not retained on reversed-phase resins (SPE-DOM) and are likely low-molecular mass organic acids. Despite the comprehensive compositional modifications of the solid-phase extractable (SPE-DOM) fraction through heating, it remains inaccessible to microbes at the investigated concentration levels. The microbial incubation resulted in only minor and mostly insignificant overall changes in SPE-DOM molecular composition and concentration.

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DOI 10.1016/j.marchem.2019.103706

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Hansen, C. T. , Niggemann, J. , Giebel, H. A. , Simon, M. , Bach, W. and Dittmar, T. (2019): Biodegradability of hydrothermally altered deep-sea dissolved organic matter , Marine Chemistry, 217 . doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2019.103706

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