Caister Academic Press

CIMB Abstract

Curr. Issues Mol. Biol. (2020) 38: 197-244.

Earth's Stratosphere and Microbial Life

Priya DasSarma, André Antunes, Marta Filipa Simões and Shiladitya DasSarma

The Earth's atmosphere is an extremely large and sparse environment which is quite challenging for the survival of microorganisms. We have long wondered about the limits to life in the atmosphere, starting with Leeuwenhoek's observation of "animalcules" collected from the air. In the past century, significant progress has been made to capture and identify biological material from varying elevations, from a few meters above ground level, to the clouds near mountaintops, and the jet streams, the ozone layer, and even higher up in the stratosphere. Collection and detection techniques have been developed and advanced in order to assess the potential diversity of life from very high altitudes. Studies of microbial life in the stratosphere with its multiple stressors (cold, dry, irradiated, with low pressure and limited nutrients), have recently garnered considerable attention. Here, we review studies of Earth's atmosphere, with emphasis on the stratosphere, addressing implications for astrobiology, the dispersal of microbes around our planet, planetary protection, and climate change.

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