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Main » 2011 » June » 4 » Beneath the seafloor detected an ocean
03:58
Beneath the seafloor detected an ocean
Scientists have found that beneath the sea floor is an entire underground ocean, inhabited by microorganisms.  According to preliminary data, and its maximum depth is five kilometers.  An international team of scientists, armed with a natural laboratory CORK, began to explore this mysterious and very ancient biosphere.
 Recently, an international team of scientists has made a report on the first experiments using deep technologies needed for long-term scientific observation of life of microorganisms under the seabed.  These studies were led by specialists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.  For the first time an attempt was made to explore the vital activity of bacteria in ih habitats, without extracting them to the surface.  And, apparently, it went quite well.


 Those who believe that life in the ocean can not be below the bottom of it, is deeply mistaken.  Studies of the last decade have shown that in the depths of the oceanic crust, which, as we recall, consists of sedimentary rocks lying on a basalt platform, there is a very enigmatic ecosystems, consisting of various microorganisms.  Back in 2005, a group of scientists from the UK at Cardiff University led by John Parkes found that beneath the surface of the seabed and ocean floor there is an entire biosphere.
 Oceanologists took sediment samples from different places Atlantic, which were located 800 meters below the ocean bottom.  Imagine their surprise when they discovered millions of different bacteria.  And created a feeling that time stopped for them - the age of rocks was estimated at 3.8 billion years old and lived in a stone labyrinth microorganisms did not differ from those that are fossilized in these sediments.
 But that's not all.  Investigating the biochemical composition of some bacterial cells, the scientists found that their age is not too small - it amounts to thousands years.  And despite the fact that the same bacteria living on the seabed, would have lived on the strength of a day!  It turns out that living under the ocean floor is very good for health.
 Even if the study authors suggested that bacterial biosphere, which is located beneath the sea floor is very high and the number of individuals composing, beyond all these biosphere sea water and land.  But soon biologists expect another surprise.  Two years later, the same group of Parkes discovered microbes in the rock, located at a depth of 1,626 meters under the ocean floor.  These organisms lived in very extreme conditions - high pressure (several thousand atmospheres) and at a temperature above 1o0 ° Celsius.  That is, in almost boiling water.
 Conducting DNA analysis, scientists have found that the bacteria belong to, extreme well-known genera Thermococcus and Pyrococcus, representatives of which live on the surface of the Earth in hot springs.  Representatives of the first kind usually get energy, oxidizing hydrogen sulfide, and the second phase - expanding the methane.  That is food to them at depths quite enough - these two gases are widely distributed in the lower layers of the crust.
 After analyzing the results of their research, Parkes and his colleagues concluded that, apparently, a bacterial biosphere can drop down to five kilometers from the sea floor.  However, this immediately suggests that approximately the same depth may be omitted and the ocean water, because without them, the bacteria simply can not survive.  It turns out that under the seabed there is an ocean, whose depth can be up to five kilometers.
 Of course, this "underground" ocean does not look like the one described by the famous writer Jules Verne in his novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth."  Apparently, it is not a whole pool filled with water, but a system of narrow passages and tanks filled with sea water.  However, its numbers this subokeane very large - estimated at hydrologists, the volume of water flowing beneath the seafloor is 110-190 million km3.  This, of course, less than a "naddonnoy" of the oceans (1,338,000,000 km3), but still far more than the entire stock of fresh water on our planet (100 - 150 million km3).
 Scientists are now trying to develop techniques for the study of the mysterious ocean, located under the seabed and its inhabitants.  As experience shows, the usual drill is little to give, as well as if not trying to seal it, it is still leaking water, located above the seabed, which kills microorganisms (its chemical composition differs somewhat from the underground) and complicates the precise chemical analysis.
 Much better results given the use of technology CORK (set of modernized equipment, warning circulation) that allow subsurface seal the hole and calmly observe the natural hydro-geological condition and the microbial ecosystem within the earth's crust.
 These devices are nothing more than a mini-laboratory equipped with all available sensors.  This laboratory is loaded into the well as tube driven into the bottle.  As a result, the penetration of liquids into the drilled hole and the outflow from it is not happening.
 Scientists from the international group is just using the station CORK.  Therefore, while they work or milliliter of ocean water does not fall into the hole well and leaching of the natural system, as well as changes in the habitat of bacteria have been avoided.  As a result, the natural laboratory, similar to that used in the experiments have enabled scientists to investigate the hydrogeology, geochemistry and microbiology of the oceanic crust.
 First results suggest that the ocean underneath the sea floor inhabited by bacteria that are used as sources of energy a few tens of inorganic compounds such as methane, hydrogen sulfide, SO2, etc. But photosynthetic microorganisms among them, seem to not at all.  This is not surprising - where do they get enough light to such great depths.
 In this regard, proposals by some scholars, such as Gary Shafer of the University of Copenhagen, about that, as a measure to combat global warming, upload "excess" carbon dioxide under the ocean floor, will be substantially revised.  After all, if among the inhabitants of an underground ocean is not photosynthetic, then the substance is there no one can dispose of (CO2 needed only photosynthetic organisms to others he or useless or even dangerous).
 If the huge amount of carbon dioxide dissolved in the waters of an underground ocean, then it is possible that they happen acidification, which could cause the death of all the unique bacterial biosphere.  This, in turn, can respond as the inhabitants of the oceans and land - it is assumed that it will dispose of these plucky little most of the methane and hydrogen sulfide, which are torn from the bowels of the earth on its surface.
 If they die, then no one will save the inhabitants of the surface of these highly toxic gases.
 Now scientists want more detailed examination of the ocean that exists under the sea.  And although the preliminary data that would make of it at least a superficial impression, take a few decades at least.  However, researchers do not lose heart - because now they have armed with a wonderful natural laboratory.  However, while they will help to unravel the secrets of the surface layer of the underground tank of sea water.  However, it is possible that in the near future there will be automatic stations that can operate at greater depths ...

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