Scientists believe that dirt underfoot will help save the Earth from extinction
Researchers believe that we should take a little break from ourselves and think about the planet – more precisely, about the preservation of its microbial diversity.
Microbial life was the first to originate on our planet. Scientists believe that it, in all likelihood, will be the last, and therefore we should already think about the preservation of microbial diversity on Earth, writes Inverse.
The new study has been published in the journal Nature Microbiology. In it, scientists compared the Earth’s microbiome with the human gut microbiome. In both cases, tiny organisms such as viruses and fungi play an important role in human or planetary health.
Scientists note that the Earth’s microbiome plays an important role in processes ranging from mitigating disease transmission to regulating greenhouse gas and nutrient emissions.
For example, researchers cite a group of mycorrhizal fungi, the number of which has almost halved across the planet. The reason for this is the development of agricultural land and soil pollution with nitrogen. These fungi grow in the soil and attach themselves to plant roots to help plants absorb nutrients and water that are vital to green spaces. All this leads to the homogenization of soil microbes – that is, the total number and diversity of microbial species is reduced.
During the study, scientists analyzed about eight dozen different scientific experiments to understand how the diversity of the Earth’s microbiome affects the “health” of the planet as a whole. As a result, scientists have deduced three ways to protect against the extinction of the planet and preserve the diversity of the Earth’s microbiome.
First, scientists propose to introduce permanent monitoring of the most affected territories, as well as areas with the greatest biodiversity. The study of the latter will help to learn more about the unique microbes, and further understand how they can be preserved and distributed in the affected regions.
Secondly, scientists believe that it is not enough just to study the microbiome of the planet, we need to repeat research from time to time in order to understand at what rate and which microbiomes we are losing.
Thirdly, scientists need to openly share their observations and data – for this there should be a separate platform. The fact is that most of these microbes are underground, and therefore researchers have no way to track them using aircraft, satellites or other technologies.
In addition, scientists believe that the scientific community needs to turn its attention not only to the restoration of destroyed ecosystems, but also to the diversity in them. Researchers propose to revive microbiomes following the example of individual ecosystems. In support of this theory, they cite data from studies of prairie restoration in the American Midwest and the reintroduction of fungi in Hawaii. Both of these experiments showed that replanting soil can create a wider variety of microbes, as well as restore entire ecosystems.
Thus, previous analyzes have shown that the re-introduction of wild microbes into the soil stimulated plant growth by more than 60%, and in some regions this figure is completely colossal – about 700%. But, unfortunately, this method is not universal and will depend on a number of factors specific to a particular area.
Scientists insist that monitoring the Earth’s microbiome is very important, because according to some studies, by 2050 more than 90% of the planet’s soil will undergo significant erosion. That is why it is so important to focus on solving the climate and soil crisis, but also to take microbes into account.
Researchers believe that the biodiversity of the planet’s microbial life can be an excellent tool in the fight to create greener and healthier ecosystems.