Jul 23, 2019 | Updated: 09:15 AM EDT

Experts Warn Against Significant Consequences for Leaving Microbes Out of Climate Change Conversation

Jun 19, 2019 09:06 AM EDT

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Experts Warn Against Significant Consequences for Leaving Microbes Out of Climate Change Conversation
(Photo : Rick Cavicchioli, UNSW Sydney)

A microbiologist at the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW Sydney, professor Rick Cavicchioli, has led the global effort of more than 30 microbiologists from 9 countries issuing a warning to humanity calling for the world to stop ignoring an 'unseen majority' in the biodiversity and ecosystem of the Earth when addressing climate change. They made the statement in a paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology.

The researchers hope that their statement will raise awareness both for how microbes can influence climate change and how they will be impacted by it, calling for including microbes in climate change research, increasing the use of research involving unique technologies, and improving education in classrooms.

According to Professor Cavicchioli, micro-organisms, which include bacteria and viruses, are the lifeforms that humans don't see on the conservation websites. They support the existence of all higher lifeforms and are critically essential in regulating climate change. However, they are rarely the focus of climate change studies and not considered in policy development.

Microbes are the 'unseen majority' of lifeforms on earth, according to Professor Cavicchioli, playing crucial functions in animals and human health, agriculture, the global food web, and industry.

One excellence instance is the Census of Marine Life that estimates that 90 percent of the ocean's total biomass is microbial. In the oceans, marine lifeforms called phytoplankton takes light energy from the sun and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as much as plants. The tiny phytoplankton forms the beginning of the ocean food web, feeding krill populations that then feed fish, sea birds, and large mammals such as whales.

In the scientists' statement, they call on researchers, institutions, and governments to commit to greater microbial recognition to mitigate climate change. Professor Cavicchioli said that the report emphasizes the need to investigate microbial responses to climate change and to include microbe-based research during the devilment of policy and management decisions.

Also, research on climate change that links biological processes to global geophysical and climate methods should have a much bigger focus on microbial processes. Explaining further, Professor Cavicchioli noted that this goes to the heart of climate change, so if micro-organisms aren't considered adequately, it means models cannot be generated properly and predictions could be inaccurate.

There will an impact on decisions made now on humans and other forms of life, so if researchers don't take into account the microbial world, they are missing quite a big component of the equation.

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