The Earth; an inscrutable blue, green and white marble suspended in the vacuum of space and on its surface, teeming with life. You and me, countless animals, plants, fungi and bacteria on the mountains, plains, rivers, and oceans of our planet. But something is lurking underneath our feet. According to new research, it’s a whole other world.
This new world that is slowly being revealed to us is what scientists call the “Deep Biosphere” because it lies many meters below the earth’s surface. It’s also sometimes called the dark biosphere because there’s no light down there. The Deep Carbon Observatory is a global community of over a thousand scientists who, for the past ten years, have been exploring this subterranean world and what lives in it. The latest press release from this research community, as their ten year long project comes to an end, reveals just how startling the deep biosphere really is.
The team sampled life forms found at mines and boreholes that had been drilled up to 5 kilometers below the earth’s surface, and up to 2.5 kilometers below the seafloor. With hundreds of samples, they were then able to model the size and makeup of the deep biosphere and it is huge. The DCO estimates that the deep biosphere is probably made up of 2 to 2.3 billion cubic kilometers of living organisms, which is almost twice the volume of all of the earth’s oceans. Just let that sink in a little bit: take the entire water volume of the earth’s oceans, pour it into a container. Now double that container. Now fill that container to the brim with stuff that’s alive--most of it, microscopic.