Long term geological record of a global deep subsurface microbial habitat in sand injection complexes

John Parnell, Adrian J. Boyce, Andrew Hurst, Brett Davidheiser-Kroll, Joanna Ponicka

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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There is extensive evidence from drilling into continental margins for microbial colonization of a deep biosphere. However it is difficult to prove deep biosphere activity in the geological record, where evidence for life is dominated by the remains of organic matter buried after deposition at the surface. Nevertheless we propose that natural injections of sand into muddy strata at continental margins represent an excellent habitat opportunity for deep microbial activity down to several kilometres' present day depth. Sulphur isotope data for iron sulphides precipitated soon after injection indicate consistent microbial sulphate reduction through the geological record. The complexes are favourable sites for colonization, because high permeability and extensive sand/mud interface allow ready availability of electron donors and nutrients. The measured examples of iron sulphide in injected sands extend back to the Proterozoic, and show that injected sand complexes have been a long-term environment for deep subsurface microbial colonization.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1828
Number of pages6
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2013


  • biogeochemistry
  • microbial ecology
  • geochemistry
  • geology


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