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Climate Warming to Play a Predominant Role in Shaping Microbial Biodiversity

At the University of Oklahoma (OU), scientists have discovered that the warming climate seems to be reducing microbial diversity, which is necessary for soil health.

Climate Warming to Play a Predominant Role in Shaping Microbial Biodiversity
Researchers at the Institute for Environmental Genomics at the University of Oklahoma are investigating plant diversity and taking samples for microbial diversity analysis. Image Credit: The University of Oklahoma.

Headed by Jizhong Zhou, Ph.D., the director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics at OU, the research team performed an eight-year experiment that discovered that climate warming played a chief role in shaping microbial biodiversity, with a considerable negative impact.

Their study outcomes have been reported in the journal Nature Microbiology.

Climate change is a major driver of biodiversity loss from local to global scales, which could further alter ecosystem functioning and services. Despite the critical importance of belowground soil biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem functions, how climate change might affect the richness and abundant distribution of soil microbial communities (bacteria, fungi, protists) was unresolved.

Jizhong Zhou, Director, Institute for Environmental Genomics, The University of Oklahoma

With the help of a long-lasting multifactor experimental field site at OU, scientists with the university’s Institute for Environmental Genomics analyzed the variations of soil microbial communities in response to altered precipitation, experimental warming, and clipping (annual biomass removal) on the grassland soil fungal, bacterial, and protistan biodiversity since 2009.

Our findings show explicit evidence that long-term climate warming reduces microbial biodiversity in a field setting. Additionally, this is the first study documenting the differential responses of both spore- and nonspore-forming microbes to climate warming, and this is the first study documenting the predominate role of warming in regulating microbial biodiversity.

Jizhong Zhou, Director, Institute for Environmental Genomics, The University of Oklahoma

Zhou added, “Our findings have important implications for predicting ecological consequences of climate change and for ecosystem management. In addition, since the effects of climate warming on biodiversity is primarily reduced moisture, it is expected that warming-induced biodiversity loss could be more severe in drylands—arid, semi-arid and dry-subhumid ecosystems that cover 41% of land worldwide.”

Zhou states that a better insight into the future warming-induced precipitation alterations could be significant in reducing the warming-induced biodiversity decreases.

The study has been financially supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, DE-SC0004601, and DE-SC0010715. Also, Zhou is a George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences and an adjunct professor in the Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

Journal Reference:

Wu, L., et al. (2022) Reduction of microbial diversity in grassland soil is driven by long-term climate warming. Nature Microbiology.


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