Two divers in Turkey descended into the pristine waters of Lake Salda on Wednesday as part of scientific research into the ecosystem of its depths that could uncover key data on early microbial life.
Supporting the study, led by geological engineer Nurgul Balci, environmental engineer Orhan Ince, and Turkey's Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, diver Tahsin Ceylan and member on his team plunged to five meters (16.4 feet), 10 meters (32.8 ft), and 15 meters (49.2 ft) below the lake's surface. Ceylan heads of the Environmental Committee of the Turkish Underwater Sports Federation.
"In the depths, there is a formation that represents the ecosystem in which it is located at the maximum level, as it is further away from external factors," said Balci, noting that these formations would produce very important data on early microbial structures.
"With the data we get from here, we'll actually be traveling through time in Salda. We'll obtain important data towards finding traces of life in its form of today, the past and the older past," she added.
Balci, a faculty member at Istanbul Technical University, explained that they had collected biological footprints known as carbon isotopes from the lake's depths and will conduct microbial tests. The team will then compare this data with the carbonate structures around the lake.
For his part, Ceylan said that a perfect ecosystem lies beneath surface in Salda lake. "This beauty, which is constantly developing, needs to be protected well. There is a wonderful ecosystem under the water, I enjoy taking video images of it immensely. We see unique flora, fauna, rock structures, and fish species."
Important for NASA
By observing these samples, the scientists hope to find which point of the lake can better preserve traces of life, said Balci, adding that the results of the study could also prove important for US space agency NASA as it continues to explore the surface of Mars with the Perseverance rover mission which landed last year in a Martian crater that shares many properties with Salda.
The team hopes to present the data in an international symposium, while a science center could also be established near Lake Salda, noted Balci, underlining the support of the ministry to this end, as well as in their scientific and conservation efforts.
Similarities between the lake, located in the southwestern Burdur province, and the Jezero Crater on Mars has captured NASA's interest in its research on possible life on the red planet.
Source: Anadolu Agency