Microbial changes regulate function of entire ecosystems

May 31, 2013

A major question in ecology has centered on the role of microbes in regulating ecosystem function. Now, in research published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Brajesh Singh of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, and collaborators show how changes in the populations of methanotrophic bacteria can have consequences for methane mitigation at ecosystem levels.

"Ecological theories developed for macro-ecology can explain the microbial regulation of the methane cycle," says Singh.

In the study, as grasslands, bogs, and moors became forested, a group of type II methanotrophic bacterium, known as USC alpha, became dominant on all three land use types, replacing other methanotrophic microbes, and oxidizing, thus mitigating methane, a powerful , explains Singh. "The change happened because we changed the niches of the microbial community."

The pre-eminence of USC alpha bacteria in this process demonstrates that the so-called "selection hypothesis" from macro-ecology "explains the changes the investigators saw in the soil functions of their land-use types," says Singh. The selection hypothesis states that a small number of key species, rather than all species present determine key functions in ecosystems. "This knowledge could provide the basis for incorporation of microbial data into predictive models, as has been done for plant communities," he says.

"Evidence of microbial regulation of the provides the basis for including microbial data in studying the effects of global changes," says Singh.

Singh warns that one should not take the results to mean that biodiversity is not important. Without microbial biodiversity, the raw materials—different with different capabilities—for adapting to changes in the environment would be unavailable, he says.

Explore further: Fungus deadly to AIDS patients found to grow on trees

More information: L. Nazaries, Y. Pan, L. Bodrossy, E.M. Baggs, P. Millard, J.C. Murrell, and B.K. Singh, 2013. Evidence of microbial regulation of biogeochemical cycles from a study on methane flux and land use change. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. Published ahead of print 26 April 2013 ,doi:10.1128/AEM.00095-13

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers find microbes accelerate soil carbon loss

Nov 27, 2012

(Phys.org)—New research from scientists at the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University suggests that the loss of carbon from soils in response to climate change could be accelerated by unexpected ...

Small-scale soil studies provide big benefits

Feb 24, 2012

When it comes to studying microbial communities in soil, the smaller the sample, the better. Only by approaching the scale at which microbes interact and function, the micron scale, can scientists understand ...

Recommended for you

Some anti-inflammatory drugs affect more than their targets

12 hours ago

Researchers have discovered that three commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, alter the activity of enzymes within cell membranes. Their finding suggests that, if taken at higher-than-approved ...

Researchers discover new strategy germs use to invade cells

Aug 20, 2014

The hospital germ Pseudomonas aeruginosa wraps itself into the membrane of human cells: A team led by Dr. Thorsten Eierhoff and Junior Professor Dr. Winfried Römer from the Institute of Biology II, members of the Cluster ...

Progress in the fight against harmful fungi

Aug 20, 2014

A group of researchers at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories has created one of the three world's largest gene libraries for the Candida glabrata yeast, which is harmful to humans. Molecular analysis of the Candida ...

How steroid hormones enable plants to grow

Aug 19, 2014

Plants can adapt extremely quickly to changes in their environment. Hormones, chemical messengers that are activated in direct response to light and temperature stimuli help them achieve this. Plant steroid ...

User comments : 0