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Abstract

Most ecosystems on Earth exist in permanent darkness, one or more steps removed from the light-driven surface world. This collection of dark habitats is the most poorly understood on Earth, in particular the size, function, and activity of these ecosystems and what influence they have on global biogeochemical processes. The vastest of these ecosystems constitute the “deep biosphere”—habitats physically located below the surface of continents and the bottom of the ocean. The deep biosphere has been the subject of considerable—and increasing—study and scrutiny in recent years. New deep biosphere realms are being explored from deep in mines in South Africa, to sediments in the middle of oceanic gyres—and beyond. New technologies are emerging, permitting researchers to do active, manipulable experimentation in situ within the subsurface. This review highlights recent history of the research and the exciting new directions this field of research is going in, and discusses some of the most active and interesting field realms currently under scrutiny by researchers examining this deep, dark, intraterrestrial life.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105500
2012-05-30
2024-07-19
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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