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Habitable periglacial landscapes in Martian mid-latitudes

Ulrich, M. and Wagner, D. and Hauber, E. and de Vera, J.P. and Schirrmeister, Lutz (2012) Habitable periglacial landscapes in Martian mid-latitudes. Icarus: International Journal of Solar System Studies, 219 (1), pp. 345-357. Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.03.019.

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Subsurface permafrost environments on Mars are considered to be zones where extant life could have survived. For the identification of possible habitats it is important to understand periglacial landscape evolution and related subsurface and environmental conditions. Many landforms that are interpreted to be related to ground ice are located in the Martian mid-latitudinal belts. This paper summarizes the insights gained from studies of terrestrial analogues to permafrost landforms on Mars. The potential habitability of Martian mid-latitude periglacial landscapes is exemplarily deduced for one such landscape, that of Utopia Planitia, by a review and discussion of environmental conditions influencing periglacial landscape evolution. Based on recent calculations of the astronomical forcing of climate changes, specific climate periods are identified within the last 10 Ma when thaw processes and liquid water were probably important for the development of permafrost geomorphology. No periods could be identified within the last 4 Ma which met the suggested threshold criteria for liquid water and habitable conditions. Implications of past and present environmental conditions such as temperature variations, ground-ice conditions, and liquid water activity are discussed with respect to the potential survival of highly-specialized microorganisms known from terrestrial permafrost. We conclude that possible habitable subsurface niches might have been developed in close relation to specific permafrost landform morphology on Mars. These would have probably been dominated by lithoautotrophic microorganisms (i.e. methanogenic archaea).

Document Type:Article
Title:Habitable periglacial landscapes in Martian mid-latitudes
AuthorsInstitution or Email of Authors
Ulrich, M.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Research Unit Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Wagner, D.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany
Hauber, E.ernst.hauber@dlr.de
de Vera, J.P.jean-pierre.devera@dlr.de
Schirrmeister, LutzAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Research Unit Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Journal or Publication Title:Icarus: International Journal of Solar System Studies
Refereed publication:Yes
In Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Page Range:pp. 345-357
Keywords:Permafrost geomorphology, habitability, Utopia Planitia, Mars
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport (old)
HGF - Program:Space (old)
HGF - Program Themes:W EW - Erforschung des Weltraums
DLR - Research area:Space
DLR - Program:W EW - Erforschung des Weltraums
DLR - Research theme (Project):W - Vorhaben Exploration des Sonnensystems (old)
Location: Berlin-Adlershof
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Planetary Research > Planetary Physics
Deposited By: Dr. Jean Pierre Paul de Vera
Deposited On:30 May 2012 09:03
Last Modified:07 Feb 2013 20:19

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