Functional Response of a Near-Surface Soil Microbial Community to a Simulated Underground CO2 Storage Leak
Understanding the impacts of leaks from geologic carbon sequestration, also known as carbon capture and storage, is key to developing effective strategies for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions management and mitigation of potential negative effects. Here, we provide the first report on the potential effects of leaks from carbon capture and storage sites on microbial functional groups in surface and near-surface soils. Using a simulated subsurface CO2 storage leak scenario, we demonstrate how CO2 flow upward through the soil column altered both the abundance (DNA) and activity (mRNA) of microbial functional groups mediating carbon and nitrogen transformations. These microbial responses were found to be seasonally dependent and correlated to shifts in atmospheric conditions. While both DNA and mRNA levels were affected by elevated CO2, they did not react equally, suggesting two separate mechanisms for soil microbial community response to high CO2 levels. The results did not always agree with previous studies on elevated atmospheric (rather than subsurface) CO2 using FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment) systems, suggesting that microbial community response to CO2 seepage from the subsurface might differ from its response to atmospheric CO2 increases.