Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.98, No.7, 3205-3217, 2014
Greenhouse gas emissions from rice microcosms amended with a plant microbial fuel cell
Methane (CH4) release from wetlands is an important source of greenhouse gas emissions. Gas exchange occurs mainly through the aerenchyma of plants, and production of greenhouse gases is heavily dependent on rhizosphere biogeochemical conditions (i.e. substrate availability and redox potential). It is hypothesized that by introducing a biocatalyzed anode electrode in the rhizosphere of wetland plants, a competition for carbon and electrons can be invoked between electrical current-generating bacteria and methanogenic Archaea. The anode electrode is part of a bioelectrochemical system (BES) capable of harvesting electrical current from microbial metabolism. In this work, the anode of a BES was introduced in the rhizosphere of rice plants (Oryza sativa), and the impact on methane emissions was monitored. Microbial current generation was able to outcompete methanogenic processes when the bulk matrix contained low concentrations of organic carbon, provided that the electrical circuit with the effective electroactive microorganisms was in place. When interrupting the electrical circuit or supplying an excess of organic carbon, methanogenic metabolism was able to outcompete current generating metabolism. The qPCR results showed hydrogenotrophic methanogens were the most abundant methanogenic group present, while mixotrophic or acetoclastic methanogens were hardly detected in the bulk rhizosphere or on the electrodes. Competition for electron donor and acceptor were likely the main drivers to lower methane emissions. Overall, electrical current generation with BESs is an interesting option to control CH4 emissions from wetlands but needs to be applied in combination with other mitigation strategies to be successful and feasible in practice.