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2008 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2007 – JUN 2008

Ecosystem to Biosphere Modeling

Project Summary

We have created a working model of a microbial mat called MBGC (for Microbial Biogeochemistry). The model examines the internal cycling of oxygen, carbon, and sulfur through a complex microbial ecosystem that may be similar to those found on early Earth.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

This year we refined MBGC to reflect more details of the carbon cycles. Under conditions where mat porewaters supersaturated in molecular oxygen, MBGC simulates photorespiration and the cyanobacteria excrete sugars. When mat porewaters become anoxic after sundown, the cyanobacteria begin to take up and ferment these sugars. We added a cyanobacterial fermentation function to MBGC, using the photorespiration exudates as a substrate. We used the following published stoichiometric relationship (Moezellar et al. 1996) to determine how much reduced carbon and energy are produced for use by other organisms.

20 umol glucose-glycogen → 17.6 umol ethanol + 22.9 umol acetate + 25.9 umol formate + 1.4umol H2 + 9.3 umol CO2

The fermentation rate function itself is basically a simple algorithm that turns on and off based on presence or absence of oxygen, and is based on the rates found by Moezellar et al., 1996.

The new source of carbon and energy for the simulated sulfate reducing bacteria changes the maximum rate of sulfate reduction from the old modeled rate. In the original SRB model, where exudates were supplied directly from photosynthesis, thus the maximum rate of sulfate reduction occurred at midday. Now the maximum occurs at night.

Reference: Moezelaar R. S.M. Buvank, and LJ. Stahl (1996). Fermentation and sulfur reduction in the mat-building cyanobacterium Microcoleus chthonoplastes. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 62(5) 1752-1758.

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    Kelly Decker
    Christopher Potter
    Objective 4.1
    Earth's early biosphere

    Objective 5.3
    Biochemical adaptation to extreme environments