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Gradient Studies Reveal the True Drivers of Extreme Life in the Atacama Desert

Boy, D. and Moeller, R. and Sauheit, L. and Schaarschmidt, F. and Rapp, S. and van den Brink, L. and Gschwendtner, S. and Godoy, R. and Matus, F. J. and Horn, M.A. and Guggenberger, G. and Boy, J. (2022) Gradient Studies Reveal the True Drivers of Extreme Life in the Atacama Desert. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 127 (3), e2021JG006714. Wiley. doi: 10.1029/2021JG006714. ISSN 2169-8953.

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Official URL: http://www.doi.org/10.1029/2021JG006714

Abstract

Studies of hyper-arid sites contribute to our understanding on how life adapted to extreme conditions. They are often used to further deduce implications for extraterrestrial biology by the so-called analogue site-approach. The Atacama Desert, Chile, is one of the most prominent analogue sites despite its neighboring productive ecosystems due to its hyper-aridity and geochemical features resembling Martian environments. We hypothesize that many drivers of extremophile life in analogue sites are only mistakenly attributed to aridity alone, thus obscuring a clear view of the far more complex process interactions originating in nearby earthly ecosystems. To test this, we investigated 54 soil profiles up to 60 cm of soil depth along of four transects in the Atacama Desert, either running parallel (S-N) or perpendicular (W-E) to the Andes. Our objective was to reveal the processes controlling the formation of soil organic carbon (SOC) as the most reliable proxy for microbial life in order to understand the boundary conditions of life in extreme habitats. Further, we aimed at identifying analogue sites as uncompromised as possible by external influences of for example, vegetated or marine ecosystems. We found a mixture of influences driving habitable conditions on gradients perpendicular to the Andes, for example, fog and precipitation scavenging caused by altitudinal variations and differing proximity to the Pacific Ocean, while transects parallel to the Andes were much less biased by external factors. Our results show that studies on life under extreme conditions should clarify the explanatory strength of the investigated factors by a gradient study approach.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/186784/
Document Type:Article
Title:Gradient Studies Reveal the True Drivers of Extreme Life in the Atacama Desert
Authors:
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iDORCID Put Code
Boy, D.Institute of Microbiology, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hannover, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Moeller, R.UNSPECIFIEDhttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-2371-0676UNSPECIFIED
Sauheit, L.Institute of Soil Science, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hannover, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Schaarschmidt, F.Institute of Cell Biology and Biophysics, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hannover, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Rapp, S.Dastani Consulting GmbH, Wettenberg, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
van den Brink, L.University of Tubingen, Tübingen, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Gschwendtner, S.Helmholtz Zentrum München, COMI Research Unit Comparative Microbiome Analysis, Neuherberg, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Godoy, R.Universidad Austral de Chile, Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales & Evolutivas, Valdivia, ChileUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Matus, F. J.Laboratory of Conservation and Dynamics of Volcanic Soils, Department of Chemical Sciences and Natural Resources, Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco, ChileUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Horn, M.A.Institute of Microbiology, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hannover, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Guggenberger, G.Leibniz Universität Hannover, Institut für Bodenkunde, Hannover, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Boy, J.Leibniz Universität Hannover, Institut für Bodenkunde, Hannover, GermanyUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date:February 2022
Journal or Publication Title:Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:Yes
Gold Open Access:No
In SCOPUS:Yes
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Volume:127
DOI:10.1029/2021JG006714
Page Range:e2021JG006714
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:2169-8953
Status:Published
Keywords:extreme conditions; gradient studies; Atacama Desert
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R FR - Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Project ISS LIFE 2.0
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine
Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Radiation Biology
Deposited By: Schrage, Larissa
Deposited On:15 Aug 2022 12:28
Last Modified:11 Dec 2023 09:12

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