Liu YD, Cockell CS, Wang G, Hu CX, Chen L, De Philippis R.. Control of lunar and Martian dust-experimental insights from artificial and natural cyanobacterial and algal crusts in the desert of Inner Mongolia, China. Astrobiology 8: 75-86

State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology, Institute of Hydrobiology, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China.
Astrobiology (Impact Factor: 2.59). 03/2008; 8(1):75-86. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2007.0122
Source: PubMed


Studies on the colonization of environmentally extreme ground surfaces were conducted in a Mars-like desert area of Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China, with microalgae and cyanobacteria. We collected and mass-cultured cyanobacterial strains from these regions and investigated their ability to form desert crusts artificially. These crusts had the capacity to resist sand wind erosion after just 15 days of growth. Similar to the surface of some Chinese deserts, the surface of Mars is characterized by a layer of fine dust, which will challenge future human exploration activities, particularly in confined spaces that will include greenhouses and habitats. We discuss the use of such crusts for the local control of desert sands in enclosed spaces on Mars. These experiments suggest innovative new directions in the applied use of microbe-mineral interactions to advance the human exploration and settlement of space.

Download full-text


Available from: Chunxiang Hu, Jan 04, 2014
  • Source
    • "In natural habitats, M. vaginatus not only occupy the most of crust cyanobacterial and algal biomass, but also play a very important role in the formation and development of BSCs (Belnap and Lange 2001, Wu et al. 2011, Lan et al. 2012). It has been confirmed that M. vaginatus has strong resistance to a variety of stress conditions , therefore is considered to be a cosmopolitan species and chosen as inocula in constructing artificial cyanobacterial crusts (Liu et al. 2008, Hu et al. 2012, Lan et al. 2014). After inoculation, the cyanobacteria are often in a dry state without any activity due to the limited water resource. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As the dominant cyanobacterial species in biological soil crusts (BSCs), Microcoleus vaginatus often suffer from many stress conditions, such as desiccation and high temperature. In this study, the activities of light harvesting complexes (LHCs) and reaction centers of photosystem (PS) II in crust cyanobacteria M. vaginatus were monitored under high temperature and desiccation conditions using chlorophyll fluorescence technology. The results showed that all the fluorescence signals were significantly inhibited by high temperature or desiccation treatments. Under high temperature conditions, it was further demonstrated PS II reaction centers were first destructed within the first hour, then the LHCs gradually dissociated and free phycocyanin formed within 1-5 hours, and the activities of all the light harvesting and reaction center pigment proteins were fully suppressed after 24 hours of high temperature treatment. Furthermore, the high temperature treated M. vaginatus lost its ability to recover photosynthetic activity. On the contrary, although desiccation also led to the loss of photosynthetic activity in M. vaginatus, after rehydration in the light the fluorescence parameters including Fo, Fv and Fv/Fm could be well recovered within 12 hours. It was concluded desiccation could provide crust cyanobacteria M. vaginatus some protection from other stresses, such as high temperature demonstrated in this experiment. The combine of temperature change and precipitation pattern in the field provide a guarantee for the alternate metabolism and inactivity in crust cyanobacteria. That may be a very important strategy for the survival of crust cyanobacteria in high temperature regions.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Physiologia Plantarum
  • Source
    • "As the uppermost layers of topsoil in arid and semiarid desert regions, biological soil crusts (BSCs) are mainly composed of cyanobacteria , algae, lichens, mosses, heterotrophic bacteria and microfungi [1e3]. They can adapt themselves to extreme environments and play significant ecological roles in desert ecosystems, such as stabilizing soil surface [4] [5], fertilizing soil [6] [7] and regulating soil moisture [8] [9]. Collectively, BSCs perform vital ecological services, however the difference in biological components or developmental level still affects the rate and type of these services [6] [10]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In the revegetation region of Shapotou (at the southeastern edge of Tengger Desert), biological soil crusts (BSCs) generally develop and succeed from cyanobacterial soil crusts (CSCs) to lichen soil crusts (LSCs). Based on the different dominant lichens on crust surface, LSCs were further divided into cyanolichen soil crusts (CLSCs) and green algae lichen soil crusts (GLSCs). In this study, the microstructures and photosynthetic diurnal changes in both CLSCs and GLSCs were investigated using the microscopic observation and chlorophyll fluorescence techniques. The results showed the different types of LSCs have different surface morphological characteristics and inner structures due to the different biological compositions. Compared with the CLSCs, GLSCs had a higher photosynthetic efficiency, including the maximum photosynthetic efficiency (Fv/Fm) and effective photosynthetic efficiency (ΦPSII), which in the final analysis was considered to be closely correlated with the different photosynthetic characteristics between different photobiont types (green algae and cyanobacteria). In addition, similar to CSCs, a midday depression of photosynthetic efficiency was detected in LSCs, although the depression extents were different in different types of LSCs. In conclusion, the occurrence of midday depression of photosynthetic efficiency might be a stress effect and also an adaptation strategy of LSCs to adversity, especially the high light intensity and temperature at noon.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · European Journal of Soil Biology
  • Source
    • "This review has highlighted that quartz pebbles retain limited moisture in soils and consequent hypolithic colonization creates islands of productivity , and that under improved moisture availability this can facilitate colonization and stabilization of surrounding soil (Fig. 5), with concomitantly greater nutrient input to soils from standing biomass (Pointing and Belnap, 2012). It would be interesting to test the hypothesis that seeding arid landscapes with quartz (potentially a low-cost and non-labour intensive endeavour) could lead to a measurable improvement in soil quality and stability, perhaps also reducing the incidence of harmful dust storms such as those that originate in China's vast deserts (Liu et al., 2008). Alternatively, as cyanobacteria related to keystone hypolithic taxa have also been implicated in formation of biological soil crusts in arid soils (Belnap, 2003), they may serve as a source of organisms that may be applied directly to aid soils or in combination with other stabilization agents such as wheat straw (Li et al., 2009). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Drylands are the largest terrestrial biome on Earth and a ubiquitous feature is desert pavement terrain, comprising rocks embedded in the mineral soil surface. Quartz and other translucent rocks are common and microbial communities termed hypoliths develop as biofilms on their ventral surfaces. In extreme deserts these represent major concentrations of biomass, and are emerging as key to geobiological processes and soil stabilization. These highly specialized communities are dominated by cyanobacteria that support diverse heterotrophic assemblages. Here we identify global-scale trends in the ecology of hypoliths that are strongly related to climate, particularly with regard to shifts in cyanobacterial assemblages. A synthesis of available data revealed a linear trend for colonization with regard to climate, and we suggest potential application for hypoliths as 'biomarkers' of aridity on a landscape scale. The potential to exploit the soil-stabilizing properties of hypolithic colonization in environmental engineering on dryland soils is also discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · Environmental Microbiology
Show more