Carbon Life: Bacteria to President Barack Obama

EarthsCarbonConcentrations_black_low

Life survives miles below the Earth’s surface

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 5 2013 (IPS)

Every living thing from bacteria to President Barack Obama is made of carbon from exploding stars.

Billions of years ago, motes of carbon and other stardust formed the Earth. Carbon is the basis of all life but most vanished deep inside the planet, researchers now believe. And surprisingly, life thrives inside the rocky layers kilometres below our feet.

“Microbes survive by eating rock at those depths,” said Robert Hazen, executive director of the , a decade-long, global collaboration investigating the inner workings of the planet.

“Life is very different under those tremendous pressures and temperatures,” Hazen told IPS.

The variety of bacterial life at extreme high-pressure depths worldwide constitutes a subterranean “Galapagos”, he said. There may be as much as half of all life in the ground deep below us, according to one estimate, although Hazen thinks that might be too high.

“Drill a hole one or two kilometres deep just about anywhere and you will find a sparse but hardy microbial community,” said Isabelle Daniel of l’Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France.

“These deep microbes, which live in the tiniest cracks and fissures in rocks, survive on the chemical energy of minerals,” said Daniel, who is one hundreds of scientists involved in the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO).

DNA analysis reveals a diversity of microorganisms, mainly single-celled. However, deep below the ocean floor live fungi-like organisms with complex cell structures. Researchers estimate that these are extraordinarily long-living organisms, conceivably living for millions of years.

“There are also a huge numbers of viruses, their DNA carefully inserted into living cells,” said Hazen.

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Arctic Oil and Gas Rush Alarms Scientists

By Stephen Leahy

[See also more recent story: Arctic Ice Gone in 5 Years – First Time in One Million Years; see also other Arctic and oil stories below. US and Canada to start offshore drilling in the Arctic summer 2010 – your support is needed to investigate and report on this. ]

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 8 2008 (IPS)

As greenhouse gas pollution destroys Arctic ecosystems, countries like Canada are spending millions not to halt the destruction but to exploit it.

Late last August, Canada announced a 93.7-million-dollar prospecting programme to map the energy and mineral resources of the region. There are “countless other precious resources buried under the sea ice and tundra,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during the announcement. The government’s mapping effort is expected to trigger 469 million dollars in private sector resource exploration and development.

“It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas lies under the Arctic,” Harper said.

This scramble to exploit some of the most environmentally delicate regions of Earth has alarmed international experts who are meeting this week in Iceland to make recommendations to the United Nations and world governments on how to protect the polar regions.

“Many experts believe this new rush to the polar regions is not manageable within existing international law,” says A.H. Zakri, director of the United Nations University’s Yokohama-based Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), co-organisers of the conference with Iceland’s University of Akureyri. Continue reading