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Open AccessArticle

Synthetic Biology for Terraformation Lessons from Mars, Earth, and the Microbiome

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ICREA-Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Plaça de la Mercè, 10, 08002 Barcelona, Spain;
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Institut de Biologia Evolutiva, UPF-CSIC, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
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Centre de Recerca Matemàtica, Campus UAB Edifici C, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain;
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Barcelona Graduate School of Mathematics (BGSMath), , Campus UAB Edifici C, 08193 Bellaterra, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
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Departamento de Ecología and Instituto Multidisciplinar para el Estudio del Medio “Ramon Margalef”, Universidad de Alicante, Carr. de San Vicente del Raspeig, s/n, 03690 San Vicente del Raspeig, Alicante, Spain; (M.B.); (F.M.)
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Systems and Synthetic Biology Program, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (CNB-CSIC), Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain
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Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Life 2020, 10(2), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/life10020014
Received: 27 December 2019 / Revised: 27 January 2020 / Accepted: 3 February 2020 / Published: 9 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Synthetic Biology and Systems Biology)
What is the potential for synthetic biology as a way of engineering, on a large scale, complex ecosystems? Can it be used to change endangered ecological communities and rescue them to prevent their collapse? What are the best strategies for such ecological engineering paths to succeed? Is it possible to create stable, diverse synthetic ecosystems capable of persisting in closed environments? Can synthetic communities be created to thrive on planets different from ours? These and other questions pervade major future developments within synthetic biology. The goal of engineering ecosystems is plagued with all kinds of technological, scientific and ethic problems. In this paper, we consider the requirements for terraformation, i.e., for changing a given environment to make it hospitable to some given class of life forms. Although the standard use of this term involved strategies for planetary terraformation, it has been recently suggested that this approach could be applied to a very different context: ecological communities within our own planet. As discussed here, this includes multiple scales, from the gut microbiome to the entire biosphere.
Keywords: terraformation; Mars; evolution; microbiome; synthetic biology; drylands; hypercycles; restoration ecology terraformation; Mars; evolution; microbiome; synthetic biology; drylands; hypercycles; restoration ecology
MDPI and ACS Style

Conde-Pueyo, N.; Vidiella, B.; Sardanyés, J.; Berdugo, M.; Maestre, F.T.; De Lorenzo, V.; Solé, R. Synthetic Biology for Terraformation Lessons from Mars, Earth, and the Microbiome. Life 2020, 10, 14.

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