Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earth's life support systems discussed in an open-access special issue

Date:
February 2, 2011
Source:
Ecological Society of America
Summary:
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.

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.

Related Articles


Cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus 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 materials -- such as chemicals, gases and sunlight -- into 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!"

The Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles is open access and available at http://www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/9/1.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecological Society of America. "Earth's life support systems discussed in an open-access special issue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202162047.htm>.
Ecological Society of America. (2011, February 2). Earth's life support systems discussed in an open-access special issue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202162047.htm
Ecological Society of America. "Earth's life support systems discussed in an open-access special issue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202162047.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying Black Seadevil Fish Captured on First-of-Its Kind Video

Terrifying Black Seadevil Fish Captured on First-of-Its Kind Video

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) An aquarium captures a first-of-its kind video of a notoriously camera-shy fish that’s also not so camera-friendly. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Red Panda Cubs Explore the Bratislava Zoo

Red Panda Cubs Explore the Bratislava Zoo

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) Four-month old Red Panda twins Pim and Pam still rely on their mother for breast milk at the Bratislava Zoo in Slovakia, but the precocious cubs have begun to branch out to solid foods, as well. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins