Navigation Links
Earth's life support systems discussed in an open-access special issue
Date:2/2/2011

In the search for life on Mars or any planet, there is much more than the presence of carbon and oxygen to consider. Using Earth's biogeochemical cycles as a reference point, elements like nitrogen, iron and sulfur are just as important for supporting life. As explored in studies published in February's open-access Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the most basic elements work together to support an extraordinary diversity of life.

Cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous are intertwined and rely on organisms just as much as organisms rely on these elements, explains Edward Rastetter from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in one of the issue's articles. For instance, fallen leaves on a forest floor supply food for microbes which excrete nutrients back into the soil, benefitting nearby trees.

Microbes transform raw materialssuch as chemicals, gases and sunlightinto biomass by a variety of metabolic processes. These energy-converting processes are as diverse as the microbes that conduct them, and are much more diverse than the metabolic capabilities of plants or animals, according to Amy Burgin from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and colleagues in one of the issue's articles.

Burgin and her team study rock-eating microbes, officially called chemolithotrophic microbes, and their roles in the ecosystems they inhabit. A well-known example habitat is the extreme environment of deep-sea hydrothermal vents, wherein these microbes metabolize dissolved minerals into organic forms of carbon that support complex food webs of tube worms, mussels and clams. These microbes and food webs have adapted to life without photosynthesis.

"While hydrothermal vents are an especially extreme environment where chemolithotrophic organisms play a particularly important and conspicuous role, they are also found in most aquatic environments, often at boundaries along oxygen-depleted zones of sediments or groundwater," says Burgin. "Their metabolic processes provide insight into the life forms that existed before Earth had an oxidized atmosphere. There were biogeochemical cycles, but they were driven by microbes that lived in the absence of oxygen, and these most ancient life forms persist today. Their activity helps drive biogeochemical cycling in today's world too."

In Frontiers' Life Lines column, Adrian Burton ponders a biogeochemical riddle of Mars where nitrogen is a major missing element. However, Mars may have once had much more nitrogen before losing it to space. "The interconnectedness of biogeochemical cycles is essential for life as we know it on Earth and would be for any life on Mars," says Burton. "But did any ancient Martian life that may have arisen get the time it needed to adapt to the Red Planet's changing environmental conditions, including disappearing nitrogen? Wouldn't it be nice to know!"


'/>"/>

Contact: Katie Kline
katie@esa.org
202-833-8773 x211
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. ASN statement in support of US Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
2. Acceleron awarded $1.5 million grant from Muscular Dystrophy Association to support ACE-031
3. Blast from the past: Jack pine genetics support a coastal glacial refugium
4. Darwins theory of gradual evolution not supported by geological history, NYU scientist concludes
5. Aeras-led research consortium receives FDA support
6. Social support post-cancer lacking among minority women
7. Going green: New program provides vital support for plant scientists
8. $1.2 million grant to support Clemson precision agriculture cotton research
9. With growing US support for personalized medicine, a look at ethical dilemmas
10. Research!America asks Congress to support embryonic stem cell research now
11. AACR supports NIH stem cell research
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/22/2016)... 22, 2016  The American College of Medical Genetics and ... Magazine as one of the fastest-growing trade shows during ... the Bellagio in Las Vegas . ... of growth in each of the following categories: net square ... number of attendees. The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting was ranked ...
(Date:6/21/2016)... , June 21, 2016 NuData Security announced ... new role of principal product architect and that ... director of customer development. Both will report directly ... officer. The moves reflect NuData,s strategic growth in ... to high customer demand and customer focus values. ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... 15, 2016 Transparency Market ... Recognition Market by Application Market - Global Industry Analysis Size ... to the report, the  global gesture recognition market ... and is estimated to grow at a CAGR ... 2024.  Increasing application of gesture recognition ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Liquid Biotech ... announced the funding of a Sponsored Research Agreement ... circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  The ... in CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes in ... These data will then be employed to support ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Brooklyn, NY (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... 15mm, machines such as the Cary 5000 and the 6000i models are higher end ... height is the height of the spectrophotometer’s light beam from the bottom of the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical , ... compounds designed to target cancer stemness pathways, announced ... granted Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food ... gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin ... to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Lawrence, MA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 ... ... the Peel Plate® YM (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research ... test platform of microbial tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President ...
Breaking Biology Technology: