Scientists’ warning to humanity: microorganisms and climate change

June 20, 2019
A pipet and well tray used to conduct microbiology research

A consensus statement was recently published in Nature warning humanity about climate change from the perspective of microorganisms. Two Byrd Center members, Virginia Rich and Matthew Sullivan, are part of a team of microbiologists that came together to author this piece written to inform scientific communities, educators, policy makers, and the general public. The consensus statement provides an overview of how anthropogenically-induced climate change can have large effects on even the smallest parts of life. The microbial community is a crucial factor in regulating climate change, but it is also essential in determining how entire trophic cascades respond to that change. Microorganisms are core elements of almost all biogeochemical cycles, including carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling across various biomes. This statement explores how the microorganisms are altered by temperature increases and chemical imbalances, therefore creating a snowball effect across both marine and terrestrial biomes as well as impacting society directly through agriculture and infectious diseases. The pieces state that, “While invisible to the naked eye and thus somewhat intangible… the microbial world constitutes the life support system of the biosphere”. To read the statement in its entirety, visit https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-019-0222-5#Sec3.


By Kasey Krok