Global warming decreases microbial diversity — ScienceDaily

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma have found that global warming decreases microbial diversity, essential for soil health. Led by Jizhong Zhou, Ph.D., director of OU’s Institute of Environmental Genomics, the research team conducted an eight-year experiment that found that global warming played a prominent role in the formation of microbial biodiversity, with a significant negative effect. Their findings are published in Natural microbiology.

“Climate change is a major driver of biodiversity loss from local to global scales, which could further alter ecosystem functioning and services,” Zhou said. “Despite the critical importance of subsurface soil biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem functions, how climate change might affect the richness and abundant distribution of soil microbial communities (bacteria, fungi, protists) does not has not been resolved.”

Using a long-term multifactorial experimental field site at OU, researchers from the university’s Institute of Environmental Genomics examined changes in soil microbial communities in response to experimental warming, precipitation change and clipping (annual biomass removal) on bacterial, fungal grassland soil and protistan biodiversity since 2009.

“Our results show explicit evidence that long-term global warming reduces microbial biodiversity on the ground,” Zhou said. “Furthermore, this is the first study documenting the differential responses of spore-forming and non-spore-forming microbes to global warming, and it is the first study documenting the predominant role of warming in the regulation of microbial biodiversity.

“Our findings have important implications for predicting the ecological consequences of climate change and for managing ecosystems,” he added. “Furthermore, since the effects of global warming on biodiversity are primarily a reduction in humidity, it is expected that the loss of biodiversity induced by warming will be more severe in arid areas – arid ecosystems, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions that cover 41% of the world’s land.”

According to Zhou, a better understanding of future warming-induced precipitation changes could be important in mitigating warming-induced decreases in biodiversity.

The article, “Reduction of Microbial Diversity in Grassland Soil is Driven by Long-Term Global Warming,” is published in Natural microbiology, #10.1038/s41564-022-01147-3. The research is supported by funding from the Science Office of the Department of Energy, DE-SC0004601 and DE-SC0010715. Zhou is also the George Lynn Cross Research Professor at Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences and Adjunct Professor at the Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

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Materials provided by University of Oklahoma. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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