Astrobiology December 2007, 7(6): 839-851
A framework is proposed for a quantitative approach to studying habitability. Considerations of environmental supply and organismal demand of energy lead to the conclusions that power units are most appropriate and that the units for habitability become watts per organism.
Extreme and plush environments are revealed to be on a habitability continuum, and extreme environments can be quantified as those where power supply only barely exceeds demand. Strategies for laboratory and field experiments are outlined that would quantify power supplies, power demands, and habitability. An example involving a comparison of various metabolisms pursued by halophiles is shown to be well on the way to a quantitative habitability analysis.