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  1. Brazelton, William J. (Ed.)
    The flanking regions of Guaymas Basin, a young marginal rift basin located in the Gulf of California, are covered with thick sediment layers that are hydrothermally altered due to magmatic intrusions. To explore environmental controls on microbial community structure in this complex environment, we analyzed site- and depth-related patterns of microbial community composition (bacteria, archaea, and fungi) in hydrothermally influenced sediments with different thermal conditions, geochemical regimes, and extent of microbial mats. We compared communities in hot hydrothermal sediments (75-100°C at ~40 cm depth) covered by orange-pigmented Beggiatoaceae mats in the Cathedral Hill area, temperate sediments (25-30°C at ~40 cm depth) covered by yellow sulfur precipitates and filamentous sulfur oxidizers at the Aceto Balsamico location, hot sediments (>115°C at ~40 cm depth) with orange-pigmented mats surrounded by yellow and white mats at the Marker 14 location, and background, non-hydrothermal sediments (3.8°C at ~45 cm depth) overlain with ambient seawater. Whereas bacterial and archaeal communities are clearly structured by site-specific in-situ thermal gradients and geochemical conditions, fungal communities are generally structured by sediment depth. Unexpectedly, chytrid sequence biosignatures are ubiquitous in surficial sediments whereas deeper sediments contain diverse yeasts and filamentous fungi. In correlation analyses across different sites and sediment depths, fungal phylotypes correlate to each other to a much greater degree than Bacteria and Archaea do to each other or to fungi, further substantiating that site-specific in-situ thermal gradients and geochemical conditions that control bacteria and archaea do not extend to fungi. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Cold seeps and hydrothermal vents are seafloor habitats fueled by subsurface energy sources. Both habitat types coexist in Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California, providing an opportunity to compare microbial communities with distinct physiologies adapted to different thermal regimes. Hydrothermally active sites in the southern Guaymas Basin axial valley, and cold seep sites at Octopus Mound, a carbonate mound with abundant methanotrophic cold seep fauna at the Central Seep location on the northern off-axis flanking regions, show consistent geochemical and microbial differences between hot, temperate, cold seep, and background sites. The changing microbial actors include autotrophic and heterotrophic bacterial and archaeal lineages that catalyze sulfur, nitrogen, and methane cycling, organic matter degradation, and hydrocarbon oxidation. Thermal, biogeochemical, and microbiological characteristics of the sampling locations indicate that sediment thermal regime and seep-derived or hydrothermal energy sources structure the microbial communities at the sediment surface. 
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  3. Abstract

    The Guaymas Basin spreading center, at 2000 m depth in the Gulf of California, is overlain by a thick sedimentary cover. Across the basin, localized temperature anomalies, with active methane venting and seep fauna exist in response to magma emplacement into sediments. These sites evolve over thousands of years as magma freezes into doleritic sills and the system cools. Although several cool sites resembling cold seeps have been characterized, the hydrothermally active stage of an off-axis site was lacking good examples. Here, we present a multidisciplinary characterization of Ringvent, an ~1 km wide circular mound where hydrothermal activity persists ~28 km northwest of the spreading center. Ringvent provides a new type of intermediate-stage hydrothermal system where off-axis hydrothermal activity has attenuated since its formation, but remains evident in thermal anomalies, hydrothermal biota coexisting with seep fauna, and porewater biogeochemical signatures indicative of hydrothermal circulation. Due to their broad potential distribution, small size and limited life span, such sites are hard to find and characterize, but they provide critical missing links to understand the complex evolution of hydrothermal systems.

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  4. Abstract

    Documenting anaerobic microbial metabolisms in hypersaline perennially ice‐covered lakes in Antarctica further refines the environmental limits to life and may reveal rare biogeochemical mechanisms and/or novel microbial catalysts of elemental cycling. We assessed rates of sulfate reduction, methanogenesis, and anaerobic oxidation of methane using radiotracers and generated 16S rRNA gene libraries from the microbial communities inhabiting the deep calcium‐chloride‐rich brine and sediments of Lake Vanda, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Sulfate reduction rates were observed in surface sediments but not in the brine overlying the sediments. Methane formation through the methylotrophic, acetoclastic, and hydrogenotrophic pathways was quantified using14C‐labeled methylamine, acetate, and CO2, respectively, and methanogenesis was detected in both the brine and the sediments. Hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis rates were the highest of all substrates tested in the sediments, while methylotrophic methanogenesis was highest in the brines. Anaerobic oxidation of methane was below the limit of detection in both the brines and sediments. The major taxa ofBacteriaandArchaeadetected were most similar to organisms previously observed in hypersaline environments and included examples related to known sulfate‐reducing bacteria other thanDeltaproteobacteria(surprisingly, sulfate‐reducingDeltaproteobacteriawere not observed in this study), and both methanogenic and methanotrophicArchaea. These data indicate an active microbial community in the anoxic brine of Lake Vanda that while similar in terms of community structure and metabolism to other brine habitats, is uniquely evolved to survive in this extreme environment.

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  5. Abstract

    Significant amounts of methane reside in sediments along the continental margins and slope of the Arctic Ocean. Methanotrophic bacteria oxidize methane to bicarbonate and also assimilate some methane‐derived carbon into biomass. Their metabolism transforms methane to other forms of carbon and sequesters it within the system, reducing its emission to the atmosphere. Increases in water temperatures driven by global climate change may accelerate the methane flux from the benthos into the water column, potentially increasing the importance of methanotrophic consumption as a methane sink. We report methane concentrations and oxidation rates in the water column of the Chukchi Sea from August 2017. This area is characterized by seasonally high nutrient concentrations that fuel high rates of pelagic primary productivity and subsequent sedimentation of organic matter, which stimulates benthic methanogenesis. Methane concentrations in the study area ranged from 6 to 72 nmol L−1, consistent with previously published measurements. Methane oxidation rates were as high as 580 pmol L−1 d−1, similar to the rates measured in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Depth‐integrated methane oxidation rates were lower than methane efflux rates, suggesting that physiochemical factors prevent the methanotrophic microbial community from efficiently removing methane from the ecosystem. Still, methanotrophic bacteria provide an ecosystem service by removing a fraction of methane prior to its efflux to the atmosphere.

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  6. Abstract

    Marine tracer studies indicate that large volumes of saline groundwater discharge to the ocean in passive margin settings. These results have not found widespread recognition because the location and cause(s) of this submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) are unclear. Here we report observations from a new long‐term seafloor monitoring network in the South Atlantic Bight that support large‐scale SGD far from shore. In the study area near Charleston, South Carolina, we determined hydrostratigraphy via vibracoring and chirp seismic surveys, collected water samples from seafloor wells, and used heat as a tracer to monitor SGD. We detected significant pulses of saline SGD issuing from the seafloor 10–15 km from shore. These pulses coincided with abrupt sea level declines of up to 30 cm. Based on an analysis of marine conditions at the time, we propose that upwelling‐favorable winds depressed sea level in the region, causing saline groundwater to discharge from confined coastal aquifers that connect land and ocean. The combination of stacked confined aquifers and variations in sea level are nearly ubiquitous in passive coastal margins. This previously overlooked combination can explain a wide range of other published observations and promotes more dynamic flows than simple tidal fluctuations. This new mechanism may explain Ra tracer signals in the coastal Atlantic Ocean and supports significant nutrient inputs to the ocean. These large natural geochemical fluxes may be sensitive to groundwater usage on land.

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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. In the current era of rapid climate change, accuratecharacterization of climate-relevant gas dynamics – namely production,consumption, and net emissions – is required for all biomes, especially thoseecosystems most susceptible to the impact of change. Marine environmentsinclude regions that act as net sources or sinks for numerous climate-activetrace gases including methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Thetemporal and spatial distributions of CH4 and N2O are controlledby the interaction of complex biogeochemical and physical processes. Toevaluate and quantify how these mechanisms affect marine CH4 andN2O cycling requires a combination of traditional scientificdisciplines including oceanography, microbiology, and numerical modeling.Fundamental to these efforts is ensuring that the datasets produced byindependent scientists are comparable and interoperable. Equally critical istransparent communication within the research community about the technicalimprovements required to increase our collective understanding of marineCH4 and N2O. A workshop sponsored by Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB)was organized to enhance dialogue and collaborations pertaining tomarine CH4 and N2O. Here, we summarize the outcomes from theworkshop to describe the challenges and opportunities for near-futureCH4 and N2O research in the marine environment. 
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