Earth’s geochemical evolution was shaped by an enormous microbial metabolic diversity. One of the urgent scientific grand challenges is to decipher the key geochemical pathways, with the ultimate aim to obtain a truly predictive understanding of the response of the Earth System to global change.
Rapid advances in geochemistry and microbiology have revealed the unique and critical role of sharp redox transitions in marine environments as prime sites for the removal of toxic ammonium and the greenhouse gas methane. Yet, the redox reactions, microbial players, and key controls remain largely unexplored.
The ERC synergy project MARIX will unite the complementary expertise required to gain a fundamental and mechanistic understanding of the geochemistry of these redox zones and the complex in-situ microbial interactions that together strongly impact our environment. By combining highly innovative fieldwork, cutting-edge laboratory experiments and state-of-the-art modelling for a range of carefully selected and representative coastal ecosystems, we will unravel the geochemistry and novel microbial pathways that remove methane and ammonium through oxidation with metal oxides.
Furthermore, we will determine the impact of the novel microbial pathways of methane and ammonium oxidation on the dynamics of nutrients, oxygen, and other key elements. Lastly, we will develop innovative gene-centric biogeochemical models for coastal sediments and overlying waters, to improve projections of the impacts of eutrophication and climate change.
The MARIX project will lead to major breakthroughs in the understanding of the key role that microorganisms play in modulating Earth’s biogeochemistry, with far-reaching implications for a wide range of research fields.