Weighing the deep continental biosphere

Sean McMahon*, John Parnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There is abundant evidence for widespread microbial activity in deep continental fractures and aquifers, with important implications for biogeochemical cycling on Earth and the habitability of other planetary bodies. Whitman et al. (P Natl Acad Sci USA, 95, 1998, 6578) estimated a continental subsurface biomass on the order of 1016-1017 g C. We reassess this value in the light of more recent data including over 100 microbial population density measurements from groundwater around the world. Making conservative assumptions about cell carbon content and the ratio of attached and free-living microorganisms, we find that the evidence continues to support a deep continental biomass estimate of 1016-1017 g C, or 2-19% of Earth's total biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-120
Number of pages8
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Volume87
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Aquifer
  • Biomass
  • Groundwater
  • Subsurface

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