From the deepest seafloor to the highest mountain, from the hottest region to the cold Antarctic plateau, environments labelled as extreme are numerous on Earth and they present a wide variety of features and characteristics. Investigating life processes in extreme environments not only can provide hints on how life first appeared and survived on Earth (as early earth was an extreme environment) but it can also give indication for the search for life on other planets.
To examine these issues and other matters the European Science Foundation (ESF) has published a 58-page report Investigating Life in Extreme Environments A European Perspective. Among other issues, the report has stated how global changes in the recent decades have turned some environments setting into becoming extreme conditions for the normal ecosystems (e.g. acidification of the oceans). Therefore the understanding of tolerance/adaptation/non-adaptation to extreme conditions and ecosystem functioning are able to help predicting the impact of global change on biodiversity.
This report is resulted from an ESF inter-committee initiative involving the Marine Board (MB-ESF), the European Polar Board (EPB), the European Space Science Committee (ESSC), the Life Earth and Environmental Sciences Standing Committee (LESC), the Standing Committee for Humanities (SCH) and the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC). This interdisciplinary initiative considered all types of life forms (from microbes to humans) evolving in a wide range of extreme environments (from deep sea to acidic rivers, polar regions or planetary bodies).
A series of recommendations were made from a large-scale interdisciplinary workshop (128 participants) organised in November 2005 with an additional workshop organised in March 2006. They have identified interdisciplinary (listed below) and disciplinary research priorities.