According to scientific research microbes live deep inside earth’s crust in a labyrinth of tunnels and shafts making one of the biggest biomes on the planet.
Despite extreme heat, darkness, limited nutrition and intense pressure, scientists estimate the Earth’s subsurface is teeming with more than 40 billion tonnes of micro-organisms.
This treasure trove of life lives as deep as five kilometres inside the Earth’s biosphere along with an abundance of water and nutrients like iron, phosphorus and nitrogen.
However without a sun, these slow-moving metabolically active-microbes have to find a way to make energy.
Enter the Sage of microbes, the Chemolithoautotroph, the guru of the underground world.
These microbes of the biome use elements like sulphur, iron, manganese, nitrogen, carbon – just like plants do – but Chemolithoautotrophs also use pure electrons to make food.
And just as plants have a waste product (which is oxygen), so do Chemolithoautotrophs.
The waste product they make is in the form of minerals, like rust, pyrite, carbonates, essentially rocks.
Two years ago a team of scientists visited Costa Rica’s subduction zone.
This a an area where the ocean floor sinks beneath the continent and volcanoes tower above the surface.
They wanted to find out if microbes can affect the cycle of carbon moving from Earth’s surface into the deep interior. The interior is made up of a series of layers that sit below the surface crust.
The Scientists found that tonnes of carbon dioxide escapes from oceanic plates but the carbon was not being released out into the atmosphere.
This is the first evidence that subterranean life plays a role in removing carbon from subduction zones and it was due to the Chemolithoautotrophs.
The microbe converts carbon dioxide into solid carbonate minerals.
This find led one of the top Microbiologist Scientist Karen Lloyd to ask could these Chemolithoautotrophs help with our carbon problem.
Lloyd is one of a thousand scientist on a ten-year quest to understand the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon inside Earth.
You can follow Deep Carbon Observatory on social media or via their website.
I’ve always been passionate about storytelling and impressed by the influence it has on people and the decisions they make in life. I love engaging with the projects I work on, diving headfirst into the research, investigation, and production of stories and articles I feel are worth writing about.