Space Science Reviews

, Volume 129, Issue 1–3, pp 79–121 | Cite as

Creating Habitable Zones, at all Scales, from Planets to Mud Micro-Habitats, on Earth and on Mars

  • Euan NisbetEmail author
  • Kevin Zahnle
  • M. V. Gerasimov
  • Jörn Helbert
  • Ralf Jaumann
  • Beda A. Hofmann
  • Karim Benzerara
  • Frances Westall


The factors that create a habitable planet are considered at all scales, from planetary inventories to micro-habitats in soft sediments and intangibles such as habitat linkage. The possibility of habitability first comes about during accretion, as a product of the processes of impact and volatile inventory history. To create habitability water is essential, not only for life but to aid the continual tectonic reworking and erosion that supply key redox contrasts and biochemical substrates to sustain habitability. Mud or soft sediment may be a biochemical prerequisite, to provide accessible substrate and protection. Once life begins, the habitat is widened by the activity of life, both by its management of the greenhouse and by partitioning reductants (e.g. dead organic matter) and oxidants (including waste products). Potential Martian habitats are discussed: by comparison with Earth there are many potential environmental settings on Mars in which life may once have occurred, or may even continue to exist. The long-term evolution of habitability in the Solar System is considered.


Mars Water Fluvial erosion Habitable surfaces Rock cycle 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Euan Nisbet
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin Zahnle
    • 2
  • M. V. Gerasimov
    • 3
  • Jörn Helbert
    • 4
  • Ralf Jaumann
    • 4
  • Beda A. Hofmann
    • 5
  • Karim Benzerara
    • 6
  • Frances Westall
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Geology, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEgham, SurreyUK
  2. 2.NASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA
  3. 3.Space Research InstituteRussian Academy of ScienceMoscowRussian Federation
  4. 4.Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)Institute of Planetary ResearchBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Naturhistorisches Museum BernBernSwitzerland
  6. 6.Institut de Minéralogie et de Physique des Milieux CondensésUMR 7590 CNRS & IPGPParisFrance
  7. 7.Centre de Biophysique MoléculaireCNRSOrléans cedex 2France

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