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食油生物的发现给海湾带来希望

时间:2011-01-11 04:06 点击:
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一份权威的文章指出广大的深水区油污带可能会逗留数月不能消散,一星期后,另一个研究宣称某种细菌可以很快的分解油,因此油污带消失在望。

这些不同结果之间的冲突十分明显。另一些研究人员认为数据量太少而不能做出任何结论。但新的发现总给人带来鼓舞。

“我们和他们对油污带看法相同”,生态学家兼劳伦斯伯克利国家实验室石油泄露专家,其研究部分赞助来自于英石油公司的特里黒曾说道,“我们从油污带的水中发现很大部分的基因能产生分解油的酶。”

和上周的研究一起,黒曾附上了在六月下旬长达22英里、一英里宽且650英尺厚的深海油污带中的取样,并发表在《科学》杂志。

先前油伍兹霍尔海洋学研究中心领导的研究发现极少的微细菌在油周围的活动迹象,这看起来在生物分解油污完毕可能需要数月。

WHOI团队并没有直接观察水中的细菌,但采用脱氧的方法--由在食油过程中的细菌繁殖并过度新陈代谢引起--作为它们活动的一个表征。

刚好可以对比的是,黒曾的团队从油污带的水样中的提取微细菌的DNA,为其排序并确定其功能。很多的基因段表明有生成能分解原油中某些化合物的酶的功能。

研究人员们也识别了一种表现出明显食油性、不耗氧的海洋螺旋菌之中前所未知的生物系。其活动被WHOI团队所忽略。

“那种特殊的物种在油污带中占统治地位。其已经超过常见的其他细菌的数量,并能很好的分解油”,黒曾说道,他指出海外的深海细菌已经进化成可以分解从海床渗透出原油的细菌。

当黒曾团队将油样放入模拟的海湾背景下的实验室,油样有一个在一天和六天之间的半衰期。据黒曾透露,研究人员在过去的三周发现没有任何油污带分解的迹象。

但据WHOI海洋学家理查卡米里透露,油污带可能离先前的位置有数英里远了,黒曾的团队可能已经找不到了。“油污带不是一个静止不动的物体。”他对华尔街杂志这样说。

另一些专家建议在解释这些发现时保持耐心。

南弗罗里达微细菌生态学家约翰保罗,目前的部分研究发现在弗罗里达的鱼产卵的海床中的油,这与联邦宣称的油已经消散相悖,不过仍然没有被新的结果所确认。

细菌的量繁种多,以及碳烃化合物的分解特性在油污带的样品和正常的海湾海水中的差别几乎没有,保罗说道。他也说道黒曾用的基因标记技术很少被人使用,因为经常给结果的执行和解释带来麻烦。

据马里兰水生毒物学家卡里斯米切尔莫尔的观点,黒曾团队只研究了油中的某些化合物的分解。“在油中还有其他很多化学物质。”她这样说。

她也强调识别油分解时发生了什么十分关键。那捕获所有的时期暗示油只是消失,但“有些时候可能产生更毒的物质。”米切尔莫尔补充道,“现存在着巨大的数据空白和未知的情况,相互冲突的数据从各个方面传来,且基于研究的巨大复杂性这会持续发生。”

“总之,”米切尔莫尔根据最新的研究说道,“这些结论只不过时基于17个取样地点的。”

译文:Oil-eating bug discovery raises Gulf hopes


A week after a high-profile paper suggested that the vast Deepwater Horizon oil plume could linger for months, another study claims are breaking the oil down quickly, and that the plume is likely gone.

The conflicts between the results are striking. Other researchers warn that there’s just too little data to draw any conclusions. But the new findings are at least encouraging.

“We saw the same plume they did,” said Terry Hazen, an ecologist and specialist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, whose research is funded in part by “We found that very large proportions of genes from water in the plume have the ability to produce enzymes that break down the oil.”

As with , Hazen’s involved samples taken from the deep-sea oil plume that in late June was 22 miles long, one mile wide and 650 feet thick, and was published in Science.

The previous study, led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, found few signs microbial activity around the oil. From those measurements, it seemed that months would pass before bugs broke down .

The WHOI team didn’t look directly at bacteria in the water, but used oxygen depletion -- caused by bugs multiplying and going into metabolic overdrive while eating -- as a sign of their activity.

By contrast, Hazen’s team extracted microbial DNA from plume water samples, sequenced the genes and identified their functions. Many of the genes produce enzymes that break down some of the compounds in crude oil.

The researchers also identified a previously-unknown strain of ostensibly oil-gobbling Oceanospirillum that doesn’t consume oxygen. Its activity would have gone unnoticed by the WHOI team.

“That particular species becomes dominant in the plume. It out competes some of the other bacteria that are normally present. It can break down the oil quite well,” said Hazen, who noted that the Gulf’s deep-sea microbes have evolved to handle crude oil that seeps naturally from the seafloor.

When Hazen’s team put oil samples in a laboratory setup designed to mimic Gulf conditions, it had a half-life of between one and six days. And according to Hazen, the researchers have found no sign of the plume in the last three weeks, suggesting its breakdown.

But according to WHOI oceanographer Richard Camilli, the plume could already be hundreds of miles from its previous location, and Hazen’s team could simply have missed it. “The plume is not a stationary object,” the Wall Street Journal.

Other experts advised patience in interpreting the findings.

University of South Florida mircobial ecologist John Paul, part of a recent study that found oil in Florida fish spawning beds and , wasn’t convinced by the new results.

The differences in bacterial abundance, diversity and hydrocarbon degrading potential are “slight” between plume samples and regular Gulf seawater, said Paul. He also said that the gene-tagging technologies used by Hazen’s team are used by few researchers “because they are often problematic in execution and interpretation of results.”

According to University of Maryland aquatic toxicologist Carys Mitchelmore, Hazen’s team only measured the breakdown of select compounds in the oil. “There’s lots of other chemicals in the oil,” she said.

She also stressed that it’s essential to identify what happens when oil is degraded. That catch-all term implies that it just vanishes, but “sometimes things can be degraded into more toxic components,” said Mitchelmore. The latest study did not make those measurements, nor did it test how microbes interacted with chemical oil dispersants used during the disaster.

“The big take-home is that we don’t know much about many things related to this spill, the oil fate and its effects” said Mitchelmore. “There are huge data gaps and uncertainties, conflicting data from many aspects, and this will continue to happen based on the huge complexity of studying this.”

“Above all,” said Mitchelmore of the latest study, “note this is all based on 17 sample sites from the field.”


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