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Sulfur cycling at natural hydrocarbon and sulfur seeps in Santa Paula Creek, CA

Aronson, Heidi S. and Monteverde, Danielle R. and Barnes, Ben Davis and Johnson, Brooke R. and Zawaski, Mike J. and Speth, Daan R. and Wang, Xingchen Tony and Wu, Fenfang and Webb, Samuel M. and Trower, Elizabeth J. and Magyar, John S. and Sessions, Alex L. and Orphan, Victoria J. and Fischer, Woodward W. (2022) Sulfur cycling at natural hydrocarbon and sulfur seeps in Santa Paula Creek, CA. Geobiology, 20 (5). pp. 707-725. ISSN 1472-4677. doi:10.1111/gbi.12512.

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Biogeochemical cycling of sulfur is relatively understudied in terrestrial environments compared to marine environments. However, the comparative ease of access, observation, and sampling of terrestrial settings can expand our understanding of organisms and processes important in the modern sulfur cycle. Furthermore, these sites may allow for the discovery of useful process analogs for ancient sulfur-metabolizing microbial communities at times in Earth's past when atmospheric O2 concentrations were lower and sulfide was more prevalent in Earth surface environments. We identified a new site at Santa Paula Creek (SPC) in Ventura County, CA—a remarkable freshwater, gravel-bedded mountain stream charged with a range of oxidized and reduced sulfur species and heavy hydrocarbons from the emergence of subsurface fluids within the underlying sulfur- and organic-rich Miocene-age Monterey Formation. SPC hosts a suite of morphologically distinct microbial biofacies that form in association with the naturally occurring hydrocarbon seeps and sulfur springs. We characterized the geology, stream geochemistry, and microbial facies and diversity of the Santa Paula Creek ecosystem. Using geochemical analyses and 16S rRNA gene sequencing, we found that SPC supports a dynamic sulfur cycle that is largely driven by sulfide-oxidizing microbial taxa, with contributions from smaller populations of sulfate-reducing and sulfur-disproportionating taxa. This preliminary characterization of SPC revealed an intriguing site in which to study geological and geochemical controls on microbial community composition and to expand our understanding of sulfur cycling in terrestrial environments.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemData
Aronson, Heidi S.0000-0002-6777-0304
Monteverde, Danielle R.0000-0002-0198-8220
Speth, Daan R.0000-0002-2361-5935
Wang, Xingchen Tony0000-0001-5316-789X
Wu, Fenfang0000-0003-1134-280X
Webb, Samuel M.0000-0003-1188-0464
Trower, Elizabeth J.0000-0001-9898-5589
Magyar, John S.0000-0002-3586-8286
Sessions, Alex L.0000-0001-6120-2763
Orphan, Victoria J.0000-0002-5374-6178
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Additional Information:© 2022 John Wiley & Sons. This project was made possible through the support of the International Geobiology Course with funding generously provided by the Agouron Institute, the Simons Foundation, and the NASA Exobiology program. We would like to thank the 2017 and 2018 International Geobiology Course participants (Rui Bao, Makayla Betts, Ines Eymard, Dawson Fairbanks, Kate Fullerton, Nir Galili, Benjamin Glasner, Miquela Ingalls, Stilianos Louca, Aaron Martinez, Jana Meixnerova, Alexandra Phillips, Jana Tischer, Michael Wells, Viola Warter, Sophie Westacott, Caitlin Casar, Mingfei Chen, Bridget Conley, Maria Figueroa, Victoria Fulfer, Carrie Harris, Amruta Karbelkar, Megan Mullis, Sergio Parra, Mary Sabuda, Galina Vinnichenko, and Qingzeng Zhu) who helped with the collection and analysis of data used in this paper. We would also like to thank Chrissie Nims and Jena Johnson for assistance with SEM imaging, Shana Goffredi for collecting and analyzing animal microbiome samples, and Ben Tully for helpful discussions on 16S rRNA sequence analysis. Use of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515. The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P41GM103393). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIGMS or NIH. DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT: The sequence data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive at, accession number PRJNA841681.
Group:Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agouron InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-AC02-76SF00515
Subject Keywords:hydrocarbon seep; microbial mats; Sulfur cycling; sulfur isotopes
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220728-730554000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Aronson, H. S., Monteverde, D. R., Barnes, B. D., Johnson, B. R., Zawaski, M. J., Speth, D. R., Wang, X. T., Wu, F., Webb, S. M., Trower, E. J., Magyar, J. S., Sessions, A. L., Orphan, V. J.; Geobiology Course 2017; Geobiology Course 2018, & Fischer, W. W. (2022). Sulfur cycling at natural hydrocarbon and sulfur seeps in Santa Paula Creek, CA. Geobiology, 20, 707–725.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:115946
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:29 Jul 2022 18:56
Last Modified:11 Jan 2023 20:42

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