Microbial mats from marine intertidal settings have been reported to release significant quantities of H2, in a unique trait among other mats and microbial communities. However, the H2 source and ecophysiological mechanisms that enable its export are not well understood. We examined H2 accumulation and export in three types of greenhouse-reared mats, from the intertidal region of Guerrero Negro, Mexico, and kept under natural light–dark conditions and wetting and drying cycles simulating low-, mid- and high-tidal height periodicity. All mats released H2 reproducibly and sustainably for 1.5 years. Net H2 export took place in a pulsed daily manner, starting after dusk, and waning in the morning, as photosynthesis resumed. Mid- and low-tidal mats developed high concentrations, capable of sustaining export fluxes that represented 2–4% of the water split through primary productivity. Neither N2 fixation nor direct photolytic hydrogenogenesis was significant to this H2 export, which was fermentative in origin, variable among mats, originating from cyanobacterial photosynthate. Analyses of community composition by pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA and hoxH genes indicate that filamentous non-heterocystous cyanobacteria (e.g. Lyngbya, Microcoleus) were important in the process of H2 export, as was the relatively low abundance and activity of methanogens and sulfate reducers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics