The oceanic crustal aquifer is one of the largest habitable volumes on Earth, and it harbors a reservoir of microbial life that influences global-scale biogeochemical cycles. Here, we use time series metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data from a low-temperature, ridge flank environment representative of the majority of global hydrothermal fluid circulation in the ocean to reconstruct microbial metabolic potential, transcript abundance, and community dynamics. We also present metagenome-assembled genomes from recently collected fluids that are furthest removed from drilling disturbances. Our results suggest that the microbial community in the North Pond aquifer plays an important role in the oxidation of organic carbon within the crust. This community is motile and metabolically flexible, with the ability to use both autotrophic and organotrophic pathways, as well as function under low oxygen conditions by using alternative electron acceptors such as nitrate and thiosulfate. Anaerobic processes are most abundant in subseafloor horizons deepest in the aquifer, furthest from connectivity with the deep ocean, and there was little overlap in the active microbial populations between sampling horizons. This work highlights the heterogeneity of microbial life in the subseafloor aquifer and provides new insights into biogeochemical cycling in ocean crust.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics