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© 2015 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved. Centimeter-long electron conduction through marine sediments, in which electrons derived from sulfide in anoxic sediments are transported to oxygen in surficial sediments, may have an important influence on sediment geochemistry. Filamentous bacteria have been proposed to mediate the electron transport, but the filament conductivity could not be verified and other mechanisms are possible. Surprisingly, previous investigations have never actually measured the sediment conductivity or its basic physical properties. Here we report direct measurements that demonstrate centimeter-long electron flow through marine sediments, with conductivities sufficient to account for previously estimated electron fluxes. Conductivity was lost for oxidized sediments, which contrasts with the previously described increase in the conductivity of microbial biofilms upon oxidation. Adding pyrite to the sediments significantly enhanced the conductivity. These results suggest that the role of conductive minerals, which are more commonly found in sediments than centimeter-long microbial filaments, need to be considered when modeling marine sediment biogeochemistry.

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ISME Journal

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