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Chapter 12 : Deep Biospheres

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Abstract:

Large bacterial populations are present in surface soils and sediments where they efficiently degrade deposited organic matter and thus recycle nutrients that are essential for continued photosynthetic primary production. This microbial filter is so efficient that in marine sediments <0.5% of water column primary production is preserved. The application of modern microbial ecological techniques to investigate subsurface environments from the mid 1980s has slowly provided evidence for the presence of deep biosphere microorganisms. The positive results from a range of different approaches used on the same sample have produced convincing evidence for a deep biosphere in a range of different environments. This chapter reviews some of these environments, including marine sediments and rocks, petroleum and coal reservoirs, terrestrial surface, and cold deep biosphere. The presence of a deep biosphere on Earth that can obtain energy from subsurface geochemical processes has clear implications for the possibility of life on other planets, whether these are hot or cold. However, we still need to know much more about our own deep biosphere as there are implications for the origin of life, biodiversity, and biosphere:geosphere interactions (e.g., climate feedbacks, gas hydrates) in addition to potential biotechnological applications such as microbial-enhanced oil recovery, petroleum and gas formation, subsurface bioremediation, and as a source of novel enzymes and compounds.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12

Key Concept Ranking

Marine Sediments Bacteria
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Figures

Image of Figure 1
Figure 1

Bacterial distributions in deep marine sediments. The solid line is the regression line and the dotted lines on either side are the 95% prediction limits. ODP, Ocean Drilling Program; OM, organic matter.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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Image of Figure 2
Figure 2

Bacterial populations and activity in gas hydrate sediments from Blake Ridge, Atlantic Ocean (modified from ). Thymidine incorporation into bacterial DNA is a measure of growth rates.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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Image of Figure 3
Figure 3

Bacterial distributions and growth rates in Mediterranean sapropels. Where the high organic matter sapropel layers (horizontal bars on the depth axis) were sampled (dashed horizontal lines), bacterial populations increased significantly (from ). ky, thousands of years.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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Image of Figure 4
Figure 4

(a) Pressure and (b) temperature characteristics of the deep marine sediment bacterium (photomicrograph) strain 80-55 [●] and strain 500-1 [¦]compared with other (○) and (■) ( ).

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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Image of Figure 5
Figure 5

Model of bacterial metabolic interactions between clay and sand layers in deep terrestrial formations.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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Image of Figure 6
Figure 6

Glacial biosphere habitat.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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Image of Figure 7
Figure 7

Schematic diagram of possible deep-biosphere energy sources and bacterial: thermogenic interactions in deep marine sediments, including increasing reactivity of buried components as temperature increases with depth ( ). LMW ?С, low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons.

Citation: Parkes R, Wellsbury P. 2004. Deep Biospheres, p 120-129. In Bull A (ed), Microbial Diversity and Bioprospecting. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817770.ch12
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References

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