The Bacteria That Can Mitigate Fracked Natural Gas Before It Pollutes the Atmosphere
By the ton, methane from fracking has about 20 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide. Researchers at a college in the United Kingdom believe they have found a tiny way to mitigate the greenhouse gas before it spreads into the atmosphere.
Methylocella silvestris, a single bacterial strain found in soil and other environments around the world, is capable of growing on methane and propane, according to research by a team at the University of East Anglia that was published in Nature, a weekly, international publication.
"The findings could help mitigate the effects of the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from both natural gas seeps in the environment and those arising from man-made activity such as fracking and oil spills," according to a statement from the university.
While some previously believed that different groupings of bacteria could metabolize methane and propane, researchers say their recent findings mean that just one bacteria could "mop up" natural gas components to reduce pollution.
“This is very important for environments exposed to natural gas, either naturally or through human activity," said Colin Murrell, the lead researcher and a professor from UEA’s school of Environmental Sciences. "These microbes may play an important role in mitigating the effects of methane and other gases before they have a chance to escape into the atmosphere."
Methylocella is found in peat, tundra and other forest soils in Northern Europe. Murrell and his team envision the researching aiding land-use management decisions for areas near fracking wells or where methane and propane could be released.
“We have shown that one microbe can grow on both methane and propane at a similar rate," Murrell said. "This is because it contains two fascinating enzyme systems which it uses to harness both gases at once."
The Natural Environment Research Council and the Norwich Research Park's Earth and Life Systems Alliance provided funding for the research.
YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE
England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alex McInturff, Christine Wilkinson and Wenjing Xu
What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet's fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.
Early advertisement for barbed wire fencing, 1880-1889. The advent of barbed wire dramatically changed ranching and land use in the American West by ending the open range system. Kansas Historical Society / CC BY-ND
The authors assembled a conservative data set of potential fence lines across the U.S. West. They calculated the nearest distance to any given fence to be less than 31 miles (50 kilometers), with a mean of about 2 miles (3.1 kilometers). McInturff et al,. 2020 / CC BY-ND
- 'This Is Not Like a Fence in a Backyard' — Trump's Border Wall vs ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
Climate change is making ancient Hopi farming nearly impossible, threatening not just the Tribe's staple food source, but a pillar of its culture and religion, the Arizona Republic reports.
- These Are the Challenges Facing India's Most Sacred River ... ›
- Oil Spill Causes 'Major Disaster' for Ganges River Dolphins ... ›
By Kenny Stancil
An expert panel of top international and environmental lawyers have begun working this month on a legal definition of "ecocide" with the goal of making mass ecological damage an enforceable international crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
- Are the Amazon Fires a Crime Against Humanity? - EcoWatch ›
- 'Her Work Will Live On': Climate Movement Mourns Loss of Ecocide ... ›