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Gobi Desert, northwest China

The examination of life's limits in China's extreme deserts was the first comprehensive study of microbial ecosystems in these locations. Scientists looked for microbial life and tried to determine climate’s effect on the distribution, diversity and abundance of that life in extreme conditions. Results of this study were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

"Our findings showed that numerous sources of water, such as rainfall and snowmelt, characterized how microbial life existed in its environment," said Chris McKay, the principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. “Rainfall amounts primarily dictated the type of microbial ecosystems we found across sites, but the effects of temperature, humidity and light created a gradient of soil water conditions suitable for life as well,” added McKay.

Media contact:

Ruth Dasso Marlaire
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650-604-4709/9000

Key Mission People
Chris McKay, scientist, NASA Ames Research Center.

Related links:

March 22, 2007
Studies Life's Limits in China's Extreme Deserts –
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. - Searching for clues to the potential for life on Mars, NASA scientists explored microbial communities in some of the world’s oldest, driest and most remote deserts, in China’s northwest region, and found evidence suggesting that conditions there may be similar to those in certain regions of Mars.

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