The thoughtful discussion by Andrews and Riding (2001) highlights several fundamental issues regarding the use of terrestrial hot springs as natural laboratories in which to identify biotic versus abiotic products of carbonate mineral precipitation. An urgent need exists to develop criteria that will consistently discriminate between carbonate precipitation mediated by microorganisms (biologically controlled and biologically induced) and precipitation resulting solely from inorganic processes (Lowenstam 1981; Lowenstam and Weiner 1982; Mann et al. 1982; McIntosh and Groat 1997). Results will permit accurate interpretation of the absence or presence and role of microbial life during the precipitation...

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