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Chemotrophs are bacteria that synthesize ATP based on favorable REDOX reactions. This solves the problem as to how they can survive. But what exactly is their function in an ecosystem? For example, can they provide nutrients for algae?

I want to know if we can cultivate chemotrophic bacteria to provide nutrients for plants. This way, we could grow them in a place like Mars where the soil is made of a lot of inorganic material. I was especially interested in algae because some species can provide a lot of nutrients humans need.

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    $\begingroup$ The problem is that just any old inorganic material won't work. You need materials such that the chemotrophs can cause them to undergo an exothermic reaction and harvest the energy from the reaction to support their life processes. In a sense, they're not that much different from animals: it's just that the food they eat doesn't come from plants via photosynthesis. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    May 6 at 4:33
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Chemotrophs are usually found in extreme environments where they can be the source of all energy for the ecosystem also called the primary producers. Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are a great example of a chemotroph primary producer and support the growth of large eukaryotes like the tubeworms (Below). The chemotrophs supporting life at the vents can oxidize Sulfur to create ATP.

enter image description here

But chemotrophs don't just have an impact on these small ecosystems, they are actually responsible for earth-scale geochemistry affecting all life. (Cool paper on that here). The reason why chemotrophic bacteria are usually not found in "normal" environments with algae is simply competition. A heterotroph using hydrocarbons will occupy a niche faster and more efficiently than any chemotrophic bacteria.

You are definitely right on the Mars soil question, where chemotrophic bacteria could be used to fix carbon or nitrogen and solubilize nutrients for future plants on mars. But maybe some cool chemotrophs are already living there!

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    $\begingroup$ Just to shore up this vocab a bit, all organisms that rely on chemical energy (as opposed to photonic energy) are chemotrophs. This includes essentially all non-photosynthetic organisms, not just extremophiles. Chemoautotrophs can use carbon dioxide as their only carbon source and are rightly considered primary producers, but they aren't really limited to extreme environments either. Most are oxidizers of reduced inorganic compounds like ammonia, dihydrogen, and various compounds of iron and/or sulfur (also making them lithotrophs, as opposed to organotrophs). $\endgroup$
    – MikeyC
    May 4 at 20:18

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