Last year, in the midst of the Deepwater Horizon crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, we wrote about a study that said that microbes in the Gulf had consumed a lot of the rogue oil plume caused by the disaster. Now a group of scientists have joined together to argue against those findings. They have published a comment in the May 27th issue of the journal Science that points out flaws in the original study and other data from oil and methane leaks around the world that prove microbes in the ocean aren’t capable of consuming large quantities of oil or methane.

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The group of scientists making the argument is led by Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Arts and Sciences and seeks to dispute a claim made in the January 21, 2011 issue of Science that “nearly all” of the methane released in the oil spill was consumed in the water column within 120 days. The group used inconsistencies in the measurements of the oil blowout itself, deficiencies in the prior team’s model and data from other methane leaks around the world to ask whether, or not, the prior paper was faulty. The scientists warn that believing that the oil was eaten by microbes could put out of our minds its future effects on global warming, if that oil was actually absorbed by the ocean floor.

A range of data exists that shows a significant release of methane seeping out at the seafloor to the atmosphere, indicating that the microbial biofilter is not as effective,” Joye said. Joye and her co-authors are not seeking just to debunk the prior paper’s findings but to help understand how microbes work for other future discharges of methane and gas. “Our goal is to understand what happened to the methane released from the Macondo discharge and in the larger framework, to better understand the factors that regulate microbial methane consumption following large-scale gas releases,” Joye added. With scientists always making new discoveries we’re glad there are some researchers out there making sure our information stays on the right track.

Via Science Daily