Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs; areas of low dissolved oxygen concentrations) play a major role in biogeochemical cycling within the world’s oceans. They are major sinks for nitrogen and sources for the gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Microbially mediated biological activity associated with these systems affects the productivity of the deep blue sea and the balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Thus, studies aimed at evaluating the phylogenetic variation and metabolic capacity of microbial communities within these systems have great promise to enhance our understanding of the patterns and processes that drive global biogeochemical phenomena in both aquatic and atmospheric compartments of the biosphere. To this end, JGI and its collaborators will be targeting the genomic diversity of indigenous microbial communities found in the near-shore anoxic basin of Saanich Inlet (British Columbia, Canada) with special consideration of the oxic/anoxic (oxygen/no oxygen) transition zone.
This work promises to provide a solid comparative genomic foundation for understanding the biogeochemical processes at work in marine OMZs around the globe, in addition to identifying and describing the key microbial players and biochemical pathways contributing to carbon and nitrogen metabolism within the enclosed nearshore basin. The cycling of carbon and nitrogen in Saanich Inlet provides an exceptional natural laboratory for the interdisciplinary study of the physical properties, kinetics, and biogeochemistry of a defined OMZ. In addition, the metabolic processes unfolding within the enclosed near-shore basin, including but not limited to the anaerobic oxidation of methane and ammonia, have potential application in the development of biological energy alternatives and waste-water management.
Principal Investigator: Steven J. Hallam (Univ. of British Columbia)