Biogeochemistry of methane and methanogenic archaea in permafrost

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2007 Jul;61(1):1-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2007.00315.x. Epub 2007 Apr 11.


This study summarizes the findings of our research on the genesis of methane, its content and distribution in permafrost horizons of different age and origin. Supported by reliable data from a broad geographical sweep, these findings confirm the presence of methane in permanently frozen fine-grained sediments. In contrast to the omnipresence of carbon dioxide in permafrost, methane-containing horizons (up to 40.0 mL kg(-1)) alternate with strata free of methane. Discrete methane-containing horizons representing over tens of thousands of years are indicative of the absence of methane diffusion through the frozen layers. Along with the isotopic composition of CH(4) carbon (delta(13)C -64 per thousand to -99 per thousand), this confirms its biological origin and points to in situ formation of this biogenic gas. Using (14)C-labeled substrates, the possibility of methane formation within permafrost was experimentally shown, as confirmed by delta(13)C values. Extremely low values (near -99 per thousand) indicate that the process of CH(4) formation is accompanied by the substantial fractionation of carbon isotopes. For the first time, cultures of methane-forming archaea, Methanosarcina mazei strain JL01 VKM B-2370, Methanobacterium sp. strain M2 VKM B-2371 and Methanobacterium sp. strain MK4 VKM B-2440 from permafrost, were isolated and described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arctic Regions
  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Euryarchaeota / isolation & purification*
  • Euryarchaeota / metabolism
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology
  • Methane / analysis*
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Methanobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Methanobacterium / metabolism


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Methane