Wednesday, October 7, 2015
cyanobacteria produce 100s of millions of tons of hydrocarbons a year
PNAS | A number of organisms synthesize hydrocarbons, but the scale at which this occurs in the environment is unknown. Here, we provide the first global estimates of hydrocarbon production by the two most abundant cyanobacteria on Earth, Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus. We suggest that these organisms represent a significant and widespread source of hydrocarbons to the world’s oceans, which in turn may sustain populations of obligate hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria known to be important in consuming anthropogenic oil spills. Our study demonstrates the role cyanobacteria play in the ocean ‟hydrocarbon cycle” and reveals the massive scale of this process. The widespread distribution of cyanobacteria and hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial environments suggests the hydrocarbon cycle is pervasive in many natural ecosystems.