EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Methane oxidation processes in sediment of the Laptev and East Siberian Seas indicated from microbial lipids and carbon isotope composition

Weichao Wu1, Henry Holmstrand1, Birgit Wild1, Natalia Shakhova2,3, Denis Kosmach4, Igor Semiletov2,3,4, and Örjan Gustafsson1
Weichao Wu et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Science and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden (
  • 2Institute of Ecology, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russian
  • 3International Arctic Research Centre, University Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, USA
  • 4Pacific Oceanological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, Russian

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is an integrated coastal sea system with complex biogeochemical processes influenced by underlying subsea permafrost, hydrates and thermogenic compartments. Methane is released from the marine sediments to the water column, which serves as an interphase between the lithosphere and the atmosphere. Before escaping into water column and atmosphere, methane has potentially experienced extensive aerobic and anaerobic oxidation by microbes in the marine sediment. In particular, the aerobic process is assumed to be dominant in the surface oxic/suboxic marine sediment (upper 1cm) after anaerobic processes in deeper zones. However, these processes are insufficiently understood in sediments of the Arctic Ocean. To probe these, we investigated the microbial lipids and their stable carbon composition in surface marine sediment (upper 1 cm) from two active methane seep areas in the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea.

The microbial fatty acids (C12 to C18 fatty acids) were relatively enriched in 13C (δ13C -18.8 to -31.2‰) compared to that of dissolved CH4 in nearby bottom water (-54.6 to -29.7‰). This contrasts to previous reports of strongly depleted δ13C signals in microbial lipids (e.g., -100‰) at active marine mid-ocean ridges and mud volcanoes, from quite different ocean areas. The absence of a depleted δ13C signal in these general microbial biomarkers suggest that these reflect substrates other than methane such as other parts of the sediment organic matter, indicated by the stronger correlation of δ13C between fatty acids and bulk organic carbon than that between fatty acid and CH4. However, the putatively more specific biomarkers for aerobic methanotrophic bacteria (mono-unsaturated C16 and C18 fatty acids) show a distinct pattern in the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea: C16:1 and C18:1 were enriched in 13C (up to 4.5 ‰) relative to their saturated analogs in the Laptev Sea; whereas, C18:1 was depleted in 13C (up to 4.5 ‰) compared to C18 in the East Siberian Sea. This could be because the relative populations of Type I and II methanotrophs were different in the two areas with different carbon assimilation pathways. Our results cannot exclude a slowly active aerobic methanotrophs at methane seeps in the East Siberian Arctic Ocean and thus call for more information from molecular microbiology.

How to cite: Wu, W., Holmstrand, H., Wild, B., Shakhova, N., Kosmach, D., Semiletov, I., and Gustafsson, Ö.: Methane oxidation processes in sediment of the Laptev and East Siberian Seas indicated from microbial lipids and carbon isotope composition, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13428,, 2021.


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