Microbial life deep underground

The bacteria which make the rocks beneath our feet their home...
06 February 2023
Presented by James Tytko


Chalk Rock Beach


Comparatively, we know an awful lot about life on the surface of planet earth. We know a lot less about the extent of life in our oceans, and we know even less about the life festering deep beneath us, in the rocks underground. Scientists estimate that 20% of the earth’s biomass (that’s the combined weight of all living things) are beneath our feet - microbes adapted to the extreme temperature and pressure down there. Geologists, like Andy Mitchell from the University of Aberystwyth, are determined to understand more about these microorganisms, and not just for scientific interest. If we are serious about getting rid of harmful CO2 in the atmosphere by sequestering it away in rocks (so-called carbon capture), we need to know how life underground will react. That’s why he’s been pooling together the data collected from scientists around the world to form a global atlas of subsurface life. James Tytko asked him how all these things survive down there in the first place…


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