Although microbes are small, they can have a significant impact on the environment and human health in a changing climate. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) issued a new report, Microbes and Climate Change: Science, People & Impacts, co-authored David KarlUniversity of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa oceanographer, and more than 30 experts from diverse disciplines, illuminating how microbes can help us adapt to climate change.
Microbes play a major role in the elemental cycle and are both producers and consumers (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) of three of the gases that contribute to 98% of global warming. To fully understand how adaptation to climate change can be done, it is important to understand how microbes will respond to changes in the climate and how they relate to humans.
“It has been said that the very great is achieved by the very small,” said Karl. “Micobes matter!” Since 1988 Karl and his colleagues have been tracking changes in the ecology of marine microbes in response to climate change at UH‘s deep sea observatory, Station ALOHA.
This report is the result of ASM’s November 2021 colloquium meeting, which brought together more than 30 experts from diverse disciplines and sectors who provided multifaceted perspectives and insights. The American Academy of Microbiology is an honorific leadership group and think-tank within the academy. ASMThe colloquium was convened by
Karl, who also serves as the director of The Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and EducationIn UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), was a key participant in the colloquium and contributed to the report. He was also a co-author on the companion paper. A Research Prospectus for the Future: Microbes and Climate ChangePublished this week in mBio. The mBioThe November colloquium meeting was a great opportunity to discuss paper and provide an extended view of the research that is needed to fill the knowledge gaps.
The microbial sciences provide invaluable insights into how we can adapt to climate change and its ramifications. The applications of microbes range from developing alternative fuels to preventing disease spread, and everything in between. The report contains key recommendations for researchers, policymakers, and regulators.
Key report recommendations
- It is important to emphasize interdisciplinary research that focuses on understanding how climate, precipitation, and temperatures affect microbial activities as well as metabolic flux.
- Provide guidance for the design of experiments and data collection in order to study microbial communities. This will allow data comparisons across diverse and global ecosystems.
- Incorporate existing data on microbial diversity, activity on consuming greenhouse gases, and other information into Earth-climate modeling to improve current and future performance.
- Increase research investment to increase knowledge and awareness about the contribution of microbes in the generation and consumption warming gases. Integrate these findings into evidence-based policies and regulatory strategies to combat climate change.
- Deploy increased surveillance and detection of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases in animals and humans, including through next generation sequencing technologies, and incorporate a One Health approach to addressing climate changes’ effects on humans, animals and our environment.