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Sean McMahon and John Parnell Weighing the deep continental biosphere FEMS Microbiology Ecology 87

Article first published online: 19 SEP 2013 | DOI: 10.1111/1574-6941.12196

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The question of how many microbes are on Earth continues to intrigue microbiologists. Whitman et al. (P Natl Acad Sci USA, 95, 1998, 6578) first estimated the number of prokaryotes and the total amount of their cellular carbon on earth. The current study by McMahon & Parnell provides a reappraisal of the continental subsurface biomass. The evidence from over 100 microbial population density measurements continues to support a deep continental biomass estimate of 1016–1017 g C, or 2–19% of Earth's total biomass. This abundant and widespread microbial activity in deep continental fractures and aquifers has important implications for biogeochemical cycling on Earth.

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