Michigan State University researchers have helped unveil an expansive microbial ecosystem living deep within Earth that is fueled by chemicals produced by volcanic eruptions and continental collisions. “There is a diverse and thriving microbial ecosystem beneath our feet that impacts the Earth in many important ways,” said Matthew Schrenk, an associate professor in MSU’s College of Natural Science. “A huge amount of the Earth’s biodiversity is beneath our feet, and they’re critical to the functioning of the planet. In fact, the team estimated that up to 170 metric tons of carbon could be gobbled up by the ecosystem every year. “It’s like a vast forest, but underground.”A close-up photo of a hot spring reveals white microbial biofilms fueled by chemicals associated with volcanic activity.