The recent discoveries of large, active populations of microbes in the subseafloor of the world's oceans supports the impact of the deep biosphere biota on global biogeochemical cycles and raises important questions concerning the functioning of these extreme environments for life. These investigations demonstrated that subseafloor microbes are unevenly distributed and that cell abundances and metabolic activities are often independent from sediment depths, with increased prokaryotic activity at geochemical and/or sedimentary interfaces. In this study we demonstrate that microbial populations vary at the scale of individual beds in the biogenic oozes of a drill site in the eastern equatorial Pacific (Ocean Drilling Program Leg 201, Site 1226). We relate bedding-scale changes in biogenic ooze sediment composition to organic carbon (OC) and microbial cell concentrations using high-resolution color reflectance data as proxy for lithology. Our analyses demonstrate that microbial concentrations are an order of magnitude higher in the more organic-rich diatom oozes than in the nannofossil oozes. The variations mimic small-scale variations in diatom abundance and OC, indicating that the modern distribution of microbial biomass is ultimately controlled by Milankovitch-frequency variations in past oceanographic conditions.

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