Rising Tundra Temperatures Create Worrying Changes In Microbial Communities

Rising Tundra Temperatures Create Worrying Changes In Microbial Communities

SOURCE: Eurasia Review DATE: July 10, 2019 SNIP: Rising temperatures in the tundra of the Earth’s northern latitudes could affect microbial communities in ways likely to increase their production of greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide, a new study of experimentally warmed Alaskan soil suggests. About half of the world’s total underground carbon is stored in the soils of these frigid, northern latitudes. That is more than twice the amount of carbon currently found in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but until now most of it has been locked up in the very cold soil. The new study, which relied on metagenomics to analyze changes in the microbial communities being experimentally warmed, could heighten concerns about how the release of this carbon may exacerbate climate change. “We saw that microbial communities respond quite rapidly – within four or five years – to even modest levels of warming,” said Kostas T. Konstantinidis, the paper’s corresponding author and a professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The study provides quantitative information about how rapidly microbial communities responded to the warming at critical depths, and highlights the dominant microbial metabolisms and groups of organisms that are responding to warming in the tundra. The work underscores the importance of accurately representing the role of soil microbes in climate models. “Because of the very large amount of carbon in these systems, as well as the rapid and clear response to warming found in this experiment and other studies, it is becoming increasingly clear that soil microbes – particularly those in...
Global Warming Is Pushing Microbes into Damaging Climate Feedback Loops & Raising Health Risks

Global Warming Is Pushing Microbes into Damaging Climate Feedback Loops & Raising Health Risks

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: June 18, 2019 SNIP: All life on Earth evolved from microorganisms in the primordial slime, and billions of years later, the planet’s smallest life forms—including bacteria, plankton and viruses—are still fundamental to the biosphere. They cycle minerals and nutrients through soil, water and the atmosphere. They help grow and digest the food we eat. Without microbes, life as we know it wouldn’t exist. Now, global warming is supercharging some microbial cycles on a scale big enough to trigger damaging climate feedback loops, research is showing. Bacteria are feasting on more organic material and produce extra carbon dioxide as the planet warms. In the Arctic, a spreading carpet of algae is soaking up more of the sun’s summer rays, speeding melting of the ice. Deadly pathogenic microbes are also spreading poleward and upward in elevation, killing people, cattle and crops. So many documented changes, along with other alarming microbial red flags, have drawn a warning from a group of 30 microbiologists, published Tuesday as a “consensus statement” in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology. The microbiologists, in their statement, warned about changes they’re already seeing and called for more research to understand the potential impact. The statement “puts humanity on notice that the impact of climate change will depend heavily on responses of microorganisms, which are essential for achieving an environmentally sustainable future,” they wrote. [A]ccelerated microbial activity in soils will significantly increase carbon emissions by 2050. In another study, he showed how global warming favors fungi that quickly break down dead wood and leaves and release CO2 to the atmosphere. Other warning signs from the...