Microbial Life in Environments Without Water

By Julian Deiss

Environments Without Water are ones where desiccation is common and water is a scarce resource. These environments range in temperature from very hot to very cold. One thing they have in common is the sacristy of water.

Environments Without Water

Scanning electron micrograph of cyanobacterial sheath material, holding sand grains together

Cryptobiotic soils are communities of microbes that form thin crusts over soils. These crusts can be found thought the world in many different habitats. Places where these complex communities of microbes have been found are the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, Sonoran Desert, the inner Columbia Basin, and outside of the united states Antarctic, Australia, and have been found on every continent. For more detailed information on cryptobiotic soils go to: Biological Soil Crust Web Site, which is maintained by the USGS.

U.S. Antarctic Program field camp at Lake Hoare in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, with the Canada Glacier in the background.
The Antarctic Dry Valleys are a region in the Antarctic continent where there is no ice present and periodically there is very little free water. In this extremely dry ecosystem there are microbes and multi-cellular organisms that can survive in this periodically extreme dry and cold environment. This extreme ecosystem is also seen as a potential analogue for possible life on Mars. More information about this ecosystem can be found at these pages:
The Antarctic Sun, page 11
Antarctic Microbes Colonize under Mars-like Conditions

Life Without Water Collections

General Collection: News articles, web sites, and reference pages, providing information about the microbes that live in environments without water.

Advanced Collection: Contains content for professionals and advanced learners, this collection includes resources such as journal abstracts and articles, academic reviews, and bibliographies.

Educational Collection: This collection contains activities, assignments, and reading materials created for educators.

Additional Resources

The complete collection of resources about microbial life in Environments Without Water is available.