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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2020

15 - Deep Life


This chapter on deep carbon subsurface life opens at the 2018 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington, DC, where Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) scientists showcased stupendous discoveries about deep life.1 Earth’s most pristine ecosystem, the deep biosphere, is home to members of all three domains of life: Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya.2,3 Archaea and Bacteria are microbes, and the Eukarya include fungi, algae, unicellar organisms with organelles, as well as plants and animals. Unicellular organisms exist everywhere on Earth’s surface, from the thermophiles in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park to the microbes living in your refrigerator or below the ice sheets of Siberia and Antarctica. The huge surprise that captivated the public following the press releases at AGU was the immense mass of carbon directly associated with subsurface bacterial life. Researchers estimated that this reservoir holds 15–23 billion tonnes of organic deep carbon.

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