Ethylene (C2H4), which is a potent gaseous plant hormone, has often been found to accumulate in anoxic soils where pathways of anaerobic C2H4 oxidation are so far unknown and other C2H4 transformation processes are uncommon. The present study shows that ethylene was reduced almost stoichiometrically (89–92%) to ethane (C2H6) in peat-soil microcosms incubated under methanogenic conditions. Methanogenesis started after a prolonged anoxic lag-phase (>29 weeks) where added ethylene prevailed despite the availability of nitrate (NO3−) as an alternative electron acceptor. Methanogenesis, as well as ethylene reduction to ethane, was inhibited by 90% at 1% oxygen. Likewise, methanogenesis and ethane formation was gradually inhibited (to a similar extent) by increasing ethylene concentrations above 0.2%; this inhibition eventually reached 90–95% at 2.2–4.5% C2H4. The present results extend the known settings for ethylene reduction to ethane, which has been occasionally reported for aquatic sediments. The importance of ethylene turn-over in anoxic peat-soils should be substantiated by studies of the abundance and activity of the relevant microorganisms in native peatlands.
Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 2013, Vol 60, p. 19-22