Pathways and Environmental Requirements for Biogenic Gas Production in the Ocean

  • Byron J. Mechalas
Part of the Marine Science book series (MR, volume 3)


Gases identified in marine sediments and interstitial waters include O2, CO2, N2, NH3, H2S and CH4. The major portion of these gases appears to be the result of coupled oxidation-reduction reactions carried out by microorganisms oxidizing organic matter. Several groups of bacteria are known to be capable of utilizing specific organic or inorganic molecules as the hydrogen acceptors. The environmental conditions under which these reactions take place determine the types of compounds present and the amount of free energy made available to the organisms.

Microbial processes that result in the formation of the gases mentioned above have long been of interest to microbiologists. The apparent uniqueness of the organisms involved has resulted in a great deal of research to determine the chemical pathways and types of transformations that occur. There has also been a very strong applied aspect to some of this research. For example, many of these processes are also important in the fields of plant and soil science, limnology, waste treatment, and several other related fields of endeavor.

Information that has been developed to explain biogenic gas production in the terrestrial sphere can also be related to observations reported from the marine environment. The role of organic carbon in denitrification, the appearance of ammonia under anaerobic conditions, and the formation of small organic molecules essential for methane production can be discussed in the light of known pathways and environmental requirements.


Anaerobic Digestion Methane Production Hydrogen Sulfide Sulfate Reduce Bacterium Methanogenic Bacterium 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Byron J. Mechalas
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Geology ProgramUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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