Is there a place on Earth where no life exists?

22nd October 2009

Asked by: Tanya Sebastian, by email

Life is incredibly resilient, and simple organisms have been found everywhere from Antarctica to the bottom of mines; even the so-called Dead Sea supports ‘salt-loving’ haloarchaea microorganisms.

There is one part of the world where nothing thrives, however: the Atacama Desert in Chile. The principal reason is the lack of water: some parts of the Atacama have not seen rain for decades. The acidic soil and high altitude – leading to relatively high levels of ultra-violet radiation – don’t help either.