Key to speeding up carbon sequestration in the ocean discovered

Scientists at Caltech and USC have discovered a way to speed up the slow part of the chemical reaction that ultimately helps the earth to safely lock away, or sequester, carbon dioxide into the ocean. Simply adding a common enzyme to the mix, the researchers have found, can make that rate-limiting part of the process go 500 times faster.

On paper, the reaction is fairly straightforward: Water plus carbon dioxide plus calcium carbonate equals dissolved calcium and bicarbonate ions in water. In practice, it is complex. “Somehow, calcium carbonate decides to spontaneously slice itself in half. But what is the actual chemical path that reaction takes?” Adkins says.

Studying the process with a secondary ion mass spectrometer (which analyzes the surface of a solid by bombarding it with a beam of ions) and a cavity ringdown spectrometer (which analyzes the 13C/12C ratio in solution), Subhas discovered that the slow part of the reaction is the conversion of carbon dioxide and water to carbonic acid.

“This reaction has been overlooked,” Subhas says. “The slow step is making and breaking carbon-oxygen bonds. They don’t like to break; they’re stable forms.”

Armed with this knowledge, the team added the enzyme carbonic anhydrase — which helps maintain the pH balance of blood in humans and other animals — and were able to speed up the reaction by orders of magnitude.

Key to speeding up carbon sequestration discovered | EurekAlert! Science News

That makes me wonder about the chemical limitation of carbon sequestration in soils.

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The Sea Monster At The Bottom Of The Carbon Food Chain

The ocean sequesters massive amounts of carbon in the form of “dissolved organic matter,” and new research explains how an ancient group of cells in the dark ocean wrings the last bit of energy from carbon molecules resistant to breakdown.

A look at genomes from SAR202 bacterioplankton found oxidative enzymes and other important families of enzymes that indicate SAR202 may facilitate the last stages of breakdown before the dissolved oxygen matter, or DOM, reaches a “refractory” state that fends off further decomposition.

Zach Landry, an OSU graduate student and first author of the study, named SAR202 “Monstromaria” from the Latin term for “sea monster.”

Study illuminates fate of marine carbon in last steps toward sequestration| Oregon State University

SAR202 Genomes from the Dark Ocean Predict Pathways for the Oxidation of Recalcitrant Dissolved Organic Matter

Bonus:

Scientists begin to unlock secrets of deep ocean color from organic matter | UMCES

For the first time, researchers have shown that cultured picocyanobacteria, Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus, found in the open ocean release fluorescent components that closely match these typical fluorescent signals found in oceanic environments.

“Two genus of picocyanobacteria – Synechococus and Prochlorocccos – are the most abundant carbon fixers in the ocean.” said Chen. His lab maintains a collection of marine cyanobacteria and cyanoviruses. Some of these isolates were used in this study.

“When you sail on the blue ocean, a lot of picocyanbacteria are working there,” said Gonsior.” They turn carbon dioxide into organic carbon and are likely responsible for some of the deep ocean color coming from organic matter.”