Methane is No Longer Just a Gas but Proved to be Fish Food

September 6, 2012

Ecosystems can not survive without each other. If you took the ocean out of the equation, the life forms within could not survive and the life forms outside could not survive. An easy way to understand this is to look at the cycle of carbon dioxide.

Carbon Cycle

Organisms exhale carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is then absorbed by vegetation, such as trees, to survive. The trees then exhale oxygen, which in turn organisms, such as people, breathe in to survive. There are many cycles like this that enable our earth and all life forms to harmoniously exist and to be able to do everyday functions without stress.

Another cycle that is continuously being studied is the production of methane gas which heavily lies on carbon material in oxygen-free environments. Studies have already been released by David Bastviken which show that the measure of methane gas that is produced by lakes is heavily underestimated in the existing calculations of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

But regardless of that fact, the new studies were conducted by Angela Sanseverino who studied a combination of two biomarkers which now shows that methane is a crucial part of life systems found in lakes and which can be returned to the food chain.

“It is like opening a black box. It turns out that carbon, which we thought was lost forever, can return to the food chain.”

Methane is consumed by bacteria which is then eaten by zooplankton and other small organisms which is then eaten by fish. This means that in the deepest depths of lakes, carbon, the very basis of all life forms, in the organic compound of methane is turned into fish food.  These findings were presented in a one of a kind study that contradicts previous perceptions of lakebed sediment methane stores being lost in the food chain.

Methane Cycle

“This is the first time we can say with any great certainty that methane from the lake bed has ended up in fish tissue via the food chain”, says David Bastviken. “Isotopic studies have been carried out in the past, but they have been more uncertain as they only related to one biomarker. We now have two independent biomarkers presenting the same results. This considerably increases the certainty of our findings.”

Angela Sanseverino wrote in her abstract of the study,

This combination of stable isotope and fatty acid tracers provides new evidence that assimilation of methane-derived carbon can be an important carbon source for the whole aquatic food web, up to the fish level.

This does not change the fact that methane gas, in general, is bad for our atmosphere. But, then again, so is too much carbon dioxide which we continuously produce in the form of pollution and smog everyday. But these findings may open new gateways in which carbon is utilized.

As new scientific discoveries such as this are found, a new platform for sustainable implementation in technologies based on how life forms exist and relate to one another could become crucial for all systems’ survival and a new basis for architecture and planning in general.

Scientific revelations such as these make the future uncertain but our abilities to react are much more promising.

Resources: Liu.se, Plos One, Universe Today, EPA and EurekAlert


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Jennifer Shockley

Jennifer is originally from Colorado and has recently moved back from Michigan. She is finishing up her Master’s degree in Architecture. She is currently focusing on urban planning and sustainable design and hopes to gain employment at a design firm specializing in these areas. Jennifer also has writing experience serving as an editor for her school newspaper and college magazine. Jennifer has two cats named Prada and Dior-aptly named after her shoe obsession. You can follow Jennifer on twitter @jenshock81.
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