delware environmental institute

Research provides evidence that bacteria in freshwater lakes release methane as a byproduct of phosphorus acquisition

Lake Matano is located on a remote, difficult-to-reach island in Indonesia, but its waters offer up answers to a broad range of scientific questions ranging from pollution and predation to endemic species and evolution. For the University of Delaware’s Julie Maresca, the long journey to the lake, and the primitive research conditions she encountered there, proved worth the effort when she and her team made an important discovery about methane release in freshwater systems.

Their findings, which have the potential to improve estimation of global freshwater methane, are reported in a paper published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology on Sept. 30.

Maresca, an assistant professor in UD’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, explains that Lake Matano has an unusual chemistry, with very high concentrations of iron. While the bottom 500 meters of the lake is anoxic, or without oxygen, iron in the lake’s upper layer is oxidized in the form of nanoparticles.