Earth is characterized by its global ecology and the widespread effects that life has on the environment. The fossil record as well as the tree of life, both indicate that life was present on Earth from very early in its history. The assumption that life has been continuously present on Earth is supported by the carbon-isotope record and the deep branches of the tree of life. The ecological correlate of life on Earth is liquid water. Liquid water is widespread on Earth and has been over its history and thus life has been global and persistent on this planet.
The fundamental goal of 'astrobiology' is to understand if Earth is rare, possibly even unique or if life is widespread throughout the universe. Astrobiology also considers the future of life and the possibility that global ecosystems can be created, or recreated as the case might be, on other worlds.
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