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Science. 2004 Dec 24;306(5705):2216-21.

Distributions of microbial activities in deep subseafloor sediments.

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  • 1Ocean Drilling Program Leg 201 Shipboard Scientific Party, NASA Astrobiology Institute, University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882, USA.


Diverse microbial communities and numerous energy-yielding activities occur in deeply buried sediments of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Distributions of metabolic activities often deviate from the standard model. Rates of activities, cell concentrations, and populations of cultured bacteria vary consistently from one subseafloor environment to another. Net rates of major activities principally rely on electron acceptors and electron donors from the photosynthetic surface world. At open-ocean sites, nitrate and oxygen are supplied to the deepest sedimentary communities through the underlying basaltic aquifer. In turn, these sedimentary communities may supply dissolved electron donors and nutrients to the underlying crustal biosphere.

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