UCSB-led team discovers immense ocean hydrocarbon cycle

A team of UCSB and WHOI researchers recently discovered that “just two types of marine cyanobacteria are adding up to 500 times more hydrocarbons to the ocean per year than the sum of all other types of petroleum inputs to the ocean, including natural oil seeps, oil spills, fuel dumping and run-off from land.” Just published in Nature Microbiology and chronicled in The UCSB Currrent, the research of graduate students Eleanor Arrington and Connor Love, Professor Dave Valentine, and their colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution evinces a previously overlooked hydocarbon oceanic cycle of immense proportions. Every couple days, over one trillion quadrillon photosynthesizing cyanobacteria produce some 2 million metric tons of pentadecane, die, and are consumed by bacteria and archea.

This discovery opened up new promising areas of research into whether these organisms can serve as an asset during oil spill cleanups, and whether these producers can be harnessed to produce hydrocarbons from sunlight. 

Eleanor Arrington and Connor Love