The lichen Xanthoria elegans has been exposed to space conditions and simulated Mars-analogue conditions in the lichen and fungi experiment (LIFE) on the International Space Station (ISS). After several simulations and short space exposure experiments such as BIOPAN, this was the first long-term exposure of eukaryotic organisms to the hostile space conditions of the low Earth orbit (LEO). The biological samples were integrated in the EXPOSE-E facility and exposed for 1.5 years outside the ISS to the combined impact of insolation, ultraviolet (UV)-irradiation, cosmic radiation, temperatures and vacuum conditions of LEO space. Additionally, a subset of X. elegans samples was exposed to simulated Martian environmental conditions by applying Mars-analogue atmosphere and suitable solar radiation filters. After their return to Earth the viability of the lichen samples was ascertained by viability analysis of LIVE/DEAD staining and confocal laser-scanning microscopy, but also by analyses of chlorophyll a fluorescence. According to the LIVE/DEAD staining results, the lichen photobiont showed an average viability rate of 71%, whereas the even more resistant lichen mycobiont showed a rate of 84%. Post-exposure viability rates did not significantly vary among the applied exposure conditions. This remarkable viability is discussed in the context of particular protective mechanisms of lichens such as anhydrobiosis and UV-screening pigments.
Research Containing: chlorophyll
Characterisation of Growth and Ultrastructural Effects of the Xanthoria elegans Photobiont After 1.5 Years of Space Exposure on the International Space Station
The lichen Xanthoria elegans has been exposed to space and simulated Mars-analogue environment in the Lichen and Fungi Experiment (LIFE) on the EXPOSE-E facility at the International Space Station (ISS). This long-term exposure of 559 days tested the ability of various organisms to cope with either low earth orbit (LEO) or Mars-analogue conditions, such as vacuum, Mars-analogue atmosphere, rapid temperature cycling, cosmic radiation of up to 215 +/- 16 mGy, and insolation of accumulated doses up to 4.87 GJm(-2), including up to 0.314 GJm(-2) of UV irradiation. In a previous study, X. elegans demonstrated considerable resistance towards these conditions by means of photosynthetic activity as well as by post-exposure metabolic activity of 50-80 % in the algal and 60-90 % in the fungal symbiont (Brandt et al. Int J Astrobiol 14(3):411-425, 2015). The two objectives of the present study were complementary: First, to verify the high post-exposure viability by using a qualitative cultivation assay. Second, to characterise the cellular damages by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) which were caused by the space and Mars-analogue exposure conditions of LIFE. Since the algal symbiont of lichens is considered as the more susceptible partner (de Vera and Ott 2010), the analyses focused on the photobiont. The study demonstrated growth and proliferation of the isolated photobiont after all exposure conditions of LIFE. The ultrastructural analysis of the algal cells provided an insight to cellular damages caused by long-term exposure and highlighted that desiccation-induced breakdown of cellular integrity is more pronounced under the more severe space vacuum than under Mars-analogue atmospheric conditions. In conclusion, desiccation-induced damages were identified as a major threat to the photobiont of X. elegans. Nonetheless, a fraction of the photobiont cells remained cultivable after all exposure conditions tested in LIFE.
Preservation of Biomarkers from Cyanobacteria Mixed with Mars-Like Regolith Under Simulated Martian Atmosphere and UV Flux
The space mission EXPOSE-R2 launched on the 24th of July 2014 to the International Space Station is carrying the BIOMEX (BIOlogy and Mars EXperiment) experiment aimed at investigating the endurance of extremophiles and stability of biomolecules under space and Mars-like conditions. In order to prepare the analyses of the returned samples, ground-based simulations were carried out in Planetary and Space Simulation facilities. During the ground-based simulations, Chroococcidiopsis cells mixed with two Martian mineral analogues (phyllosilicatic and sulfatic Mars regolith simulants) were exposed to a Martian simulated atmosphere combined or not with UV irradiation corresponding to the dose received during a 1-year-exposure in low Earth orbit (or half a Martian year on Mars). Cell survival and preservation of potential biomarkers such as photosynthetic and photoprotective pigments or DNA were assessed by colony forming ability assays, confocal laser scanning microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and PCR-based assays. DNA and photoprotective pigments (carotenoids) were detectable after simulations of the space mission (570 MJ/m(2) of UV 200-400 nm irradiation and Martian simulated atmosphere), even though signals were attenuated by the treatment. The fluorescence signal from photosynthetic pigments was differently preserved after UV irradiation, depending on the thickness of the samples. UV irradiation caused a high background fluorescence of the Martian mineral analogues, as revealed by Raman spectroscopy. Further investigation will be needed to ensure unambiguous identification and operations of future Mars missions. However, a 3-month exposure to a Martian simulated atmosphere showed no significant damaging effect on the tested cyanobacterial biosignatures, pointing out the relevance of the latter for future investigations after the EXPOSE-R2 mission. Data gathered during the ground-based simulations will contribute to interpret results from space experiments and guide our search for life on Mars.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) can lead to severe economic and ecological impacts in coastal areas and can threaten marine life and human health. About three quarters of these toxic blooms are caused by dinoflagellate species. One dinoflagellate species, i.e., Karenia brevis, blooms nearly every year in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly on the West Florida Shelf (WFS), where these blooms cause millions of dollars in socioeconomic damage. In this letter, we use the red band difference (RBD) bloom detection tech- nique for detection of low backscattering phytoplankton blooms, such as K. brevis, and conduct time-series analyses of the spatial extent of these blooms using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spec- troradiometer (MODIS) monthly mean data spanning July 2002 (sensor inception) to September 2014. The time-series results show that the RBD successfully detects the documented HABs in the region, illustrating the seasonal and interannual variability, in- cluding the extensive blooms of 2005 and 2014.
Producing sprouts directly during space missions may represent an interesting opportunity to offer high-quality fresh ready to eat food to the astronauts. The goal of this work was to compare, in terms of growth and nutritional quality, rocket (Eruca sativa Mill.) seedlings grown in the International Space Station during the ENEIDE mission with those grown in a ground-based experiment (in presence and absence of clinorotation). The rocket seedlings obtained from the space-experiment were thinner and more elongated than those obtained in the ground-based experiment. Cotyledons were often closed in the seedlings grown in the space experiment. Quantitative (germination, fresh and dry weight) and qualitative (glucose, fructose, sucrose and starch) traits of rocket seedling were negatively affected by micrograv-ity, especially those recorded on seedlings grown under real microgravity conditions The total chlorophyll, and carotenoids of seedlings obtained in the space experiment were strongly reduced in comparison to those obtained in the ground-based experiment (presence and absence of clinorotation). The results showed that it is possible to produce rocket seedlings in the ISS; however, further studies are needed to define the optimal environmental conditions for producing rocket seedlings with high nutritional value.
Performance evaluation of normalized difference chlorophyll index in northern Gulf of Mexico estuaries using the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean
The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) was used to derive chlorophyll-a (chl-a) based on the normalized difference chlorophyll index (NDCI) in two Gulf of Mexico coastal estuaries. Chl-a data were acquired from discrete in situ water sample analysis and above-water hyperspectral surface acquisition system (HyperSAS) remote sensing reflectance in Pensacola Bay (PB) and Choctawhatchee Bay (CB). NDCI algorithm calibrations and validations were completed on HICO data. Linear and best-fit (polynomial) calibrations performed strongly with R2 of 0.90 and 0.96, respectively. The best validation of NDCI resulted with an R2 of 0.74 and root-mean-square error (RMSE) of 1.64 µg/L. A strong spatial correspondence was observed between NDCI and chl-a, with higher NDCI associated with higher chl-a and these areas were primarily located in the northern PB and eastern CB at the river mouths. NDCI could be effectively used as a qualitative chl-a monitoring tool with a reduced need for site-specific calibration.
Remote sensing of selected water-quality indicators with the hyperspectral imager for the coastal ocean (HICO) sensor
The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) offers the coastal environmental monitoring community an unprecedented opportunity to observe changes in coastal and estuarine water quality across a range of spatial scales not feasible with traditional field-based monitoring or existing ocean colour satellites. HICO, an Office of Naval Research-sponsored programme, is the first space-based maritime hyperspectral imaging instrument designed specifically for the coastal ocean. HICO has been operating since September 2009 from the Japanese Experiment Module – Exposed Facility on the International Space Station (ISS). The high pixel resolution (approximately 95 m at nadir) and hyperspectral imaging capability offer a unique opportunity for characterizing a wide range of water colour constituents that could be used to assess environmental condition. In this study, we transform atmospherically corrected ISS/HICO hyperspectral imagery and derive environmental response variables routinely used for evaluating the environmental condition of coastal ecosystem resources. Using atmospherically corrected HICO imagery and a comprehensive field validation programme, three regionally specific algorithms were developed to estimate basic water-quality properties traditionally measured by monitoring agencies. Results indicated that a three-band chlorophyll a algorithm performed best (R2 = 0.62) when compared with in situ measurement data collected 2–4 hours of HICO acquisitions. Coloured dissolved organic matter (CDOM) (R2 = 0.93) and turbidity (R2 = 0.67) were also highly correlated. The distributions of these water-quality indicators were mapped for four estuaries along the northwest coast of Florida from April 2010 to May 2012. However, before the HICO sensor can be transitioned from proof-of-concept to operational status and its data applied to benefit decisions made by coastal managers, problems with vicarious calibration of the sensor need to be resolved and standardized protocols are required for atmospheric correction. Ideally, the sensor should be placed on a polar orbiting platform for greater spatial and temporal coverage as well as for image synchronization with field validation efforts.