1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · News

Climate Change and Microbiology

16.12.2008

Introduction

John Dupré writes for environmental research web

Story

The Egenis Director has written a 'Talking Point' article for the website environmentalresearchweb discussing the importance of taking account of microbial activity when modelling climate change.

"Microbes, it is safe to say, are sadly neglected in most discussions of climate science," writes Professor Dupré. "Under our noses, but mostly invisible to the naked eye, these tiny organisms are easily overlooked. And yet there is nothing we human beings can do from one minute to the next that is not based on co-operative arrangements with our microbial partners. Our respiration, digestion, immune function, wellbeing and overall survival depend on microbes. All our food is produced in alliance with complex communities of the organisms, as are many other life-sustaining materials. In fact, 90% of the cells in our bodies are microbes, and 99% of the genes in our bodies reside in these microbes. Most of these microbes live in our digestive tract although they are also found on the skin and in all our bodily cavities.

"Crucially, microbes have the capacity to alter the environment in profound and lasting ways. Historically they are the most effective geoengineers and biogeochemists. Life as we now know it could not have evolved without the dramatic rise in oxygen levels – the Great Oxidation Event – some 2.3 billion years ago. Although the causes of this relatively sudden increase in atmospheric oxygen remain shrouded in controversy, it is widely agreed that cyanobacteria in the oceans were the first organisms to produce oxygen: there is little doubt that these microbes played a major role."

The article continues on environmentalresearchweb

Graphic