Jun 25, 2019 | Updated: 07:39 AM EDT

Bacteria That Feeds on Methane Found Thriving In The Earth’s Atmosphere

Apr 12, 2019 10:19 PM EDT

Bacteria Eats Methane
(Photo : https://pixabay.com/photos/sky-clouds-sunlight-dark-690293/)

EUROPE -- Scientists in Europe have found a way to minimize the presence of methane in the air that we breathe. Although it may not be the most abundant type of dangerous gas in the Earth's atmosphere, it tends to be the most potent one when it comes to keeping heat within the atmosphere. While the amount of methane present in the atmosphere may be lower compared to that of carbon dioxide (CO2), scientists put considerable amount to understanding how we can get rid of methane in the atmosphere altogether.

The scientists have found bacteria in the air that seems to have a ravenous type of appetite for this particular gas. Methane has what scientists would describe as super radiation-trapping abilities. In fact, it is found to be at least 30 times more potent than a CO2 as a type of greenhouse gas. The spread of its presence in the atmosphere from many of its known sources continues to expand.

Methane is mainly produced from the gas leaking from various facilities and the burning of biomass. Recently, scientists have also discovered that the world's reservoirs are producing such type of gas and are emitting at least 25% of the methane into the atmosphere. This was something not known until recently.

Apart from working on reducing the amount of methane present in the atmosphere, the more important concern is how to lessen its amount from further expansion. Scientists have long known that there is a type of bacteria that grow in the soil that thrives in the consumption of methane. It plays a significant role in balancing out the greenhouse effect of these gases when they reach the atmosphere.

"The bacterium is called Methylocapsa gorgona. This discovery is rather surprising. Not only does it gain energy from the consumption of methane in the air, but it also helps fix nitrogen in the air," explained by Michael Wagner, a researcher from the University of Vienna. The research was conducted through the help of the NanoSIMS technology of the university. The bacterium's metabolism also includes hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

What's even better than the discovery is that scientists have learned how they could cultivate it in the lab. They are confident that they could help in the reproduction of such microbes to help with the struggle to combat the effects of climate change.

While the leap between the discovery and the cultivation of such bacterium may be huge, it is something that scientists would want to work on. They want to pursue this new process to help discover new ways to save the environment. They also write that in the near future, they would like to develop methane sinks to allow people to better preserve its natural way of using its ability to trap dangerous gas. The research study was fully published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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