An active nitrogen cycle on Mars sufficient to support a subsurface biosphere

  title={An active nitrogen cycle on Mars sufficient to support a subsurface biosphere},
  author={C. S. Boxe and Kevin P. Hand and Kenneth H. Nealson and Yuk L. Yung and Alfonso Saiz‐Lopez},
  journal={International Journal of Astrobiology},
  pages={109 - 115}
Abstract Mars' total atmospheric nitrogen content is 0.2 mbar. One-dimensional (1D) photochemical simulations of Mars' atmosphere show that nitric acid (HNO3(g)), the most soluble nitrogen oxide, is the principal reservoir species for nitrogen in its lower atmosphere, which amounts to a steady-state value of 6×10−2 kg or 4 moles, conditions of severe nitrogen deficiency. Mars could, however, support ∼1015 kg of biomass (∼1 kg N m−2) from its current atmospheric nitrogen inventory. The… 
Nitrate photolysis in ice and snow: A critical review of its multiphase chemistry
Abstract Nitrate, a member of the oxidized nitrogen family (NOy), is one of the primary species involved in the nitrogen cycle and thus plays a key role in ecosystem processes, globally. It exists as
New Insights into Martian Atmospheric Chemistry
HO_x radicals are produced in the Martian atmosphere by the photolysis of water vapor and subsequently participate in catalytic cycles that recycle carbon dioxide (CO_2) from its photolysis product
Nitrogen in Extraterrestrial Environments: Clues to the Possible Presence of Life
Nitrogen is a critical element for living organisms on Earth. While atmospheric N2 is plentiful, organisms find it difficult to metabolize, requiring chemical modifications that are rare or absent in
N2-associated surface warming on early Mars
Abstract Early Mars may have had a warmer and denser atmosphere allowing for the presence of liquid water on the surface. However, climate model studies have not been able to reproduce these
A potential central role of Thaumarchaeota in N-Cycling in a semi-arid environment, Fort Stanton Cave, Snowy River passage, New Mexico, USA.
Functional gene sequences and taxonomic findings suggest several bacterial and archaeal phyla potentially play a role in nitrification pathways in FSC and FMD.
Sustainable life support on Mars – the potential roles of cyanobacteria
Insights are given into how and why cyanobacteria could play a role in the development of self-sustainable manned outposts on Mars, and a wide range of life-support biological processes based on Martian resources.
Evaluation of the Atmospheric Chemical Entropy Production of Mars
A thermochemical model for the Martian atmosphere is developed to analyze the disequilibrium by chemical reactions calculating the entropy production and it follows from the comparison with the Earth atmosphere that themagnitude of the entropy produced by the recombination reaction forming O.
Effects of sample pretreatment and particle size on the determination of nitrogen in soil by portable LIBS and potential use on robotic-borne remote Martian and agricultural soil analysis systems
Field determination of nitrogen in soil is of interest for both terrestrial and Martian applications. Improved management of soil nitrogen levels on Earth could benefit global food production, whilst
Aqueous extracts of a Mars analogue regolith that mimics the Phoenix landing site do not inhibit spore germination or growth of model spacecraft contaminants Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032
Abstract Because Mars is a primary target for life detection and habitability assessment missions, its exploration is also by necessity a Planetary Protection issue. The recent finding of significant
Monocarbon cationic cluster yields from N2/CH4 mixtures embedded in He nanodroplets and their calculated binding energies.
Little correlation between the ion yields and the associated binding energies has been observed indicating that in most cases kinetic control is more important than thermodynamic control for forming the clusters.


Biological nitrogen fixation under primordial Martian partial pressures of dinitrogen.
The data appear to indicate that biological nitrogen fixation could have occurred on primordial Mars (pN2=18 mb), making it possible for a biotic system to have played a role in the Martian nitrogen cycle.
Where is the nitrogen on Mars?
Nitrogen is an essential element for life. Specifically, fixed nitrogen (i.e. NH3, NH4+, NOx or N that is chemically bound to either inorganic or organic molecules and can be released by hydrolysis
Nitrogen fixation on early Mars and other terrestrial planets: experimental demonstration of abiotic fixation reactions to nitrite and nitrate.
The results show that two pathways exist for the abiotic fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere into the crust: one via HNO and another via NO(2), which could represent fixation on a planet with liquid water (and hence would also be a source of nitrogen for the origin of life).
Atmospheric energy for subsurface life on Mars?
  • B. Weiss, Y. Yung, K. Nealson
  • Chemistry, Medicine
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 2000
Because both atmospheric and Viking lander soil data provide little evidence for biological activity, the detection of short-lived trace gases will probably be a better indicator of any extant Martian life.
Oxygenic photosynthesis and the oxidation state of Mars.
Insight into the nature of past sources of oxidation on Mars will require searching for organics in the Martian subsurface and sediments, as on the Earth.
A coupled soil-atmosphere model of H2O2 on Mars.
A coupled soil/atmosphere transport model for H2O2 on Mars found that the atmospheric concentration is only weakly coupled with soil loss processes, and it was found that organic compounds, protected from an oxidizing environment, may still exist.
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[1] It has been shown that sunlit snowpacks are photochemically active, producing a number of species that can significantly impact the overlying atmosphere. Here we investigate the origin of the
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Integrating conceptually similar models of the growth of marine and terrestrial primary producers yielded an estimated global net primary production (NPP) of 104.9 petagrams of carbon per year, with
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Consideration of the subsoil reservoir raises estimates of vadose-zone nitrogen inventories by 14 to 71% for warm deserts and arid shrublands worldwide and by 3 to 16% globally.