The geochemical fingerprint of microbial long-distance electron transport in the seafloor

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Abstract

Recently, a novel "electrogenic" type of sulfur oxidation has been documented in marine sediments, whereby long filamentous cable bacteria are generating electrical currents over centimeter-scale distances. Here we propose a numerical model description that is capable of quantitatively simulating the solute depth profiles and biogeochemical transformations in such electro-active marine sediments. The model is based on a conventional reactive transport description of marine sediments, which is extended with a new model formulation for the long-distance electron transport induced by the cable bacteria. The mechanism of electron hopping is implemented to describe the electron transport along the longitudinal axis of the microbial filaments. We demonstrate that this model is capable of reproducing the observed geochemical fingerprint of electrogenic sulfur oxidation, which consists of a characteristic set of O2, pH and H2S depth profiles. Our simulation results suggest that the cable bacteria must have a high affinity for both oxygen and sulfide, and that intensive cryptic sulfur cycling takes place within the suboxic zone. A sensitivity analysis shows how electrogenic sulfur oxidation strongly impacts the biogeochemical cycling of sulfur, iron, carbon and calcium in marine sediments.

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Meysman, F. J. R., Risgaard-Petersen, N., Malkin, S. Y., & Nielsen, L. P. (2015). The geochemical fingerprint of microbial long-distance electron transport in the seafloor. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 152, 122–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2014.12.014

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