Soil Microbes Hit By Climate Change Need More Study

By on December 21, 2015

Elizabeth Carlisle checks soil microbes in a +Heat plot. (Credit: Danny Walls)

While it’s clear that climate change is affecting many plants and animals, it’s not yet clear how some other parts of ecosystems are influenced, such as microbial communities in soil. Healthy ecosystems are dependent on soil microbes to break down organic material into forms that are usable by animals and plants.

According to a release from the American Society of Agronomy, soil microbes have shown adaptive abilities in environments with short-term temperature increases or increases in wetness, but their long-term adaptation requires further study, researchers say.

Using quadrants in a Kentucky pasture system, scientists exposed soil microbes to normal seasonal temperature and moisture variations; a climate warmer by 3 degrees Celsius; a climate with 30 percent more moisture than usual; and a climate both 3 degrees warmer and with 30 percent more moisture.

After a year of exposure, scientists found that warmed plots contained less carbon for the microbes to use, and that more microbes were in the warmed plots. However, they also found that seasonal variations were larger than experimental variations.

Top image: Elizabeth Carlisle checks soil microbes in a +Heat plot. (Credit: Danny Walls)

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