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Extremeophiles and Extreme Environments: May 2013


When Catherine La Farge threads her way through the recently exposed terrain left behind by retreating glaciers, she looks at the ancient plant remains a lot closer than most. Now, her careful scrutiny has revealed a startling reawakening of long-dormant plants known as bryophytes.

With cold temperatures, low humidity and high levels of ultraviolet radiation, conditions 10 kilometers above Earth's surface may seem inhospitable. But, next time you're flying consider this: The air outside your airplane window may be filled with microscopic life that affects everything from weather and climate to the distribution of pathogens around the planet.