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O_2 solubility in Martian near-surface environments and implications for aerobic life

Stamenković, Vlada and Ward, Lewis M. and Mischna, Michael and Fischer, Woodward W. (2018) O_2 solubility in Martian near-surface environments and implications for aerobic life. Nature Geoscience, 11 (12). pp. 905-909. ISSN 1752-0894. doi:10.1038/s41561-018-0243-0.

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Due to the scarcity of O_2 in the modern Martian atmosphere, Mars has been assumed to be incapable of producing environments with sufficiently large concentrations of O_2 to support aerobic respiration. Here, we present a thermodynamic framework for the solubility of O2 in brines under Martian near-surface conditions. We find that modern Mars can support liquid environments with dissolved O_2 values ranging from ~2.5 × 10^(−6) mol m^(−3) to 2 mol m^(−3) across the planet, with particularly high concentrations in polar regions because of lower temperatures at higher latitudes promoting O_2 entry into brines. General circulation model simulations show that O_2 concentrations in near-surface environments vary both spatially and with time—the latter associated with secular changes in obliquity, or axial tilt. Even at the limits of the uncertainties, our findings suggest that there can be near-surface environments on Mars with sufficient O_2 available for aerobic microbes to breathe. Our findings may help to explain the formation of highly oxidized phases in Martian rocks observed with Mars rovers, and imply that opportunities for aerobic life may exist on modern Mars and on other planetary bodies with sources of O_2 independent of photosynthesis.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access ItemGene Expression Omnibus
Stamenković, Vlada0000-0003-2416-3683
Ward, Lewis M.0000-0002-9290-2567
Mischna, Michael0000-0002-8022-5319
Fischer, Woodward W.0000-0002-8836-3054
Alternate Title:O2 solubility in Martian near-surface environments and implications for aerobic life
Additional Information:© 2018 Springer Nature Limited. Received 26 March 2018; Accepted 11 September 2018; Published 22 October 2018. Code availability: The climate and solubility codes used for this study can be made available upon request from the authors. Data availability: The generated data output from the climate model used for this study can be made available upon request from the authors. V.S. would like to dedicate this work in memory of A. S. Kubik who inspired so many to search for life on other worlds and brought so much life to this planet. V.S. thanks the Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life for supporting this work (338555). A portion of this work was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA. W.W.F. acknowledges support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life, and L.M.W. the support of a NASA Earth Space and Science Fellowship. Resources supporting this work were provided by the NASA High-End Computing (HEC) Program through the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames Research Center as well as the High-Performance Computing facilities of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Office of the Chief Information Officer. Author Contributions: V.S., L.M.W. and W.W.F. conceptualized this study. M.M. ran the GCM simulations for all obliquities. V.S. developed the solubility model for all brines, extended the idea to a three-dimensional and time-dependent (obliquity-driven) solubility framework, led the writing of the manuscript and prepared all figures and tables. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Simons Foundation338555
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NASA Earth Space and Science FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180821-114000056
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:88984
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:04 Sep 2018 23:11
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 00:31

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