The impact crater as a habitat: effects of impact processing of target materials
Impact structures are a rare habitat on Earth. However, where they do occur they can potentially have an important influence on the local ecology. Some of the types of habitat created in the immediate post-impact environment are not specific to the impact phenomenon, such as hydrothermal systems and crater lakes that can be found, for instance, in post-volcanic environments, albeit with different thermal characteristics than those associated with impact. However, some of the habitats created are specifically linked to processes of impact processing. Two examples of how impact processing of target materials has created novel habitats that improve the opportunities for colonization are found in the Haughton impact structure in the Canadian High Arctic. Impact-shocked rocks have become a habitat for endolithic microorganisms, and large, impact-shattered blocks of rock are used as resting sites by avifauna. However, some materials produced by an impact, such as melt sheet rocks, can make craters more biologically depauperate than the area surrounding them. Although there are no recent craters with which to study immediate post-impact colonization, these data yield insights into generalized mechanisms of how impact processing can influence post-impact succession. Because impact events are one of a number of processes that can bring localized destruction to ecosystems, understanding the manner in which impact structures are recolonized is of ecological interest. Impact craters are a universal phenomenon on solid planetary surfaces, and so they are of potential biological relevance on other planetary surfaces, particularly Mars.
Authors: Cockell, Charles S., Osinski, Gordon R., Lee, Pascal