Microbes in the Tundras could blow the roof off global warming with their emissions

Microbes react very quickly — within five to seven years — to even slight changes in the climate.

While many parts of the world are experiencing global warming in different ways, there is an overall rise in the Earth's temperature. Both the planet's ice-capped poles are melting, causing a sea-level rise. The increasing warmth in these regions is causing palpable changes in the animals and plants that live in these areas.

In a new study, researchers studying the Alaskan tundras said that global warming could cause microbes living in the soil of this region to release more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Considering that half the carbon in the world (twice as much as the carbon levels in the atmosphere) is stored under the planet's frozen soil, the consequences of having all this carbon released into the atmosphere would be disastrous.

Representational image. Credit: Pixabay

Representational image. Credit: Pixabay

Microbes react quickly to slight changes like warming over the span of a few years.

"We saw that microbial communities respond quite rapidly – within four or five years – to even modest levels of warming," Kostas T Konstantinidis, author of the paper and a professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a press release. "Microbial species and their genes involved in carbon dioxide and methane release increased their abundance in response to the warming treatment. We were surprised to see such a response to even mild warming."

This research paper aims to highlight the importance of microbes and the important contribution they may already be making to climate change vis-a-vis greenhouse gases. The researchers are looking to study them and their activities in climate change models.

The study was supported by the US Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation and the findings were published in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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