by C. Rotter, Mar 10, 2022 in WUWT
Scientists are turning to a combination of data collected from the air, land, and space to get a more complete picture of how climate change is affecting the planet’s frozen regions.
Trapped within Earth’s permafrost – ground that remains frozen for a minimum of two years – are untold quantities of greenhouse gases, microbes, and chemicals, including the now-banned pesticide DDT. As the planet warms, permafrost is thawing at an increasing rate, and scientists face a host of uncertainties when trying to determine the potential effects of the thaw.
A paper published earlier this year in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment looked at the current state of permafrost research. Along with highlighting conclusions about permafrost thaw, the paper focuses on how researchers are seeking to address the questions surrounding it.
Infrastructure is already affected: Thawing permafrost has led to giant sinkholes, slumping telephone poles, damaged roads and runways, and toppled trees. More difficult to see is what has been trapped in permafrost’s mix of soil, ice, and dead organic matter. Research has looked at how chemicals like DDT and microbes – some of which have been frozen for thousands, if not millions, of years – could be released from thawing permafrost.
Then there is thawing permafrost’s effect on the planet’s carbon: Arctic permafrost alone holds an estimated 1,700 billion metric tons of carbon, including methane and carbon dioxide. That’s roughly 51 times the amount of carbon the world released as fossil fuel emissions in 2019. Plant matter frozen in permafrost doesn’t decay, but when permafrost thaws, microbes within the dead plant material start to break the matter down, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
by University of Washington, July 12, 2019 in ScienceDaily
On Earth, scientists are studying the most extreme environments to learn how life might exist under completely different settings, like on other planets. A University of Washington team has been studying the microbes found in “cryopegs,” trapped layers of sediment with water so salty that it remains liquid at below-freezing temperatures, which may be similar to environments on Mars or other planetary bodies farther from the sun.
At the recent AbSciCon meeting in Bellevue, Washington, researchers presented DNA sequencing and related results to show that brine samples from an Alaskan cryopeg isolated for tens of thousands of years contain thriving bacterial communities. The lifeforms are similar to those found in floating sea ice and in saltwater that flows from glaciers, but display some unique patterns.
“We study really old seawater trapped inside of permafrost for up to 50,000 years, to see how those bacterial communities have evolved over time,” said lead author Zachary Cooper, a UW doctoral student in oceanography.
by Brown University, September 24, 2018 in ScienceDaily/EPSL
A new study shows evidence that ancient Mars probably had an ample supply of chemical energy for microbes to thrive underground.
“We showed, based on basic physics and chemistry calculations, that the ancient Martian subsurface likely had enough dissolved hydrogen to power a global subsurface biosphere,” said Jesse Tarnas, a graduate student at Brown University and lead author of a study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. “Conditions in this habitable zone would have been similar to places on Earth where underground life exists.”
New research shows that ancient Mars likely had ample chemical energy to support the kinds of underground microbial colonies that exist on Earth.
Credit: NASA / JPL
by Heidelberg University, November 24, 2017 in ScienceDaily
In recent years, researchers have identified a small group of stalactites that appear to have calcified underwater instead of in a dry cave. The Hells Bells in the El Zapote cave near Puerto Morelos on the Yucatán Peninsula are just such formations. Scientists have recently investigated how these bell-shaped, meter-long formations developed, assisted by bacteria and algae.
by DOE/Sandia National Laboratories, August 21, 2017 in ScienceDaily
Scientists are working toward a better understand whether cyanobacteria can be grown for biofuels on a large scale.
See also here
by Peggy Townsend, July 18, 2017 in PHYS.ORG
The discovery pushed back the time for the emergence of microbial life on land by 580 million years and also bolstered a paradigm-shifting hypothesis laid out by UC Santa Cruz astrobiologists David Deamer and Bruce Damer: that life began, not in the sea, but on land.
by Penn State, July 13, 2017 in ScienceDaily
Large, robust, lens-shaped microfossils from the approximately 3.4 billion-year-old Kromberg Formation of the Kaapvaal Craton in eastern South Africa are not only among the oldest elaborate microorganisms known, but are also related to other intricate microfossils of the same age found in the Pilbara Craton of Australia, according to an international team of scientists.
by A.L. Hauptmann et al., July 11, 2017
Globally emitted contaminants accumulate in the Arctic and are stored in the frozen environments of the cryosphere. The microbial potential to degrade anthropogenic contaminants, such as toxic and persistent polychlorinated biphenyls, was found to be spatially variable and not limited to regions close to human activities.
by Linnaeus University, July 4, 2017
In addition to the life on the surface of the Earth and in its oceans, ecosystems have evolved deep under us in a realm coined the “deep biosphere” which stretches several kilometers down into the bedrock. Down there, the conditions are harsh and life is forced to adjust to a lifestyle that we at the surface would call extreme. One major difference to surface conditions is the lack of oxygen; a compound we take for granted and consider to be a prerequisite for survival but which subsurface life has to cope without.
Original article here (Nature Communication)
by Andrew Follett, June 28 in ClimateChangeDipatch
The study found that dispersants broke up the oil into tiny droplets, making them less buoyant and unable to float to the surface. This meant that the oil formed a layer deep below the surface of the water, making it easier for microbes that live in the deep ocean to eat it. However, scientists weren’t able to measure the exact amount of oil eliminated by the microbes.
Due largely to these oil-eating bacteria, the Gulf of Mexico recovered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill faster than scientists thought possible and has returned to pre-spill levels of environmental health.
by Linnaeus University, May 9, 2017 in ScienceDaily
It is becoming more and more appreciated that a major part of the biologic activity is not going on at the ground surface, but is hidden underneath the soil down to depths of several kilometres in an environment coined the “deep biosphere”. Studies of life-forms in this energy-poor system have implications for the origin of life on our planet and for how life may have evolved on other planets, where hostile conditions may have inhibited colonization of the surface environment. The knowledge about ancient life in this environment deep under our feet is extremely scarce.
by UNSW Sydney, May 9, 2017 in ScienceDaily
Fossils discovered by UNSW scientists in 3.48 billion year old hot spring deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia have pushed back by 580 million years the earliest known existence of microbial life on land.
he Pilbara deposits are the same age as much of the crust of Mars, which makes hot spring deposits on the red planet an exciting target for our quest to find fossilised life there.”
by University of Adelaide, April 28, 2017, in Science News
Special ‘nugget-producing’ bacteria may hold the key to more efficient processing of gold ore, mine tailings and recycled electronics, as well as aid in exploration for new deposits, University of Adelaide research has shown.
Now they have shown for the first time, just how long this biogeochemical cycle takes and they hope to make to it even faster in the future.
by Florida State University, March 15, 2017
New research suggests that inorganic chemicals can self-organize into complex structures that mimic primitive life on Earth.This complicates the identification of Earth’s earliest microfossils and redefines the search for life on other planets and moons.
D. Gillan (U. Mons) et A. Préat (ULB)
En raison de la toxicité des métaux lorsque ceux-ci sont en trop grande concentration dans l’environnement, le monde cellulaire a développé toute une série de mécanismes de résistance qui commencent à être bien connus chez les bactéries. Certains de ces mécanismes produisent des minéraux pouvant alors être qualifiés de biominéraux. De nombreux biominéraux ont ainsi été identifiés dans le monde bactérien. Cela va de la calcite aux oxydes de fer et de manganèse en passant par le phosphate de plomb et d’uranium. L’intérêt de bien connaître les processus de biominéralisation microbienne réside dans le fait qu’ils peuvent servir de biosignature. En effet, lesbiominéraux peuvent être préservés au cours des temps géologiques alors que les cellules à basede carbone se décomposent beaucoup plus rapidement.
La bonne connaissance de la structure de ces biominéraux nous offre un outil précieux qui pourrait être utilisé dans le cadre de la recherche de la vie sur d’autres planètes. Sur terre, l’activité des microorganismes a conduit depuis 3,7 milliards d’années à la formation de gisements minéraux encore exploités. De nombreux exemples sont connus comme les fameux dépôts rubanés de fer (« BIF ») précambriens, les stromatolithes précambriens exploités par les cimentiers en Afrique, les « marbres rouges » mésozoïques européens dont la teinte liée à des ferro-bactéries sont utilisés depuis des siècles par les architectes, les gisements d’or d’Afrique du Sud plus riches grâce à la médiation bactérienne, certains gisements de plomb, de zinc, de nickel, etc. Tous les indices biologiques laissés dans ces bio-gisements suite aux interactions de microbes et minéraux seront parmi les premiers qui nous révèleront des traces de vie sur d’autres planètes.