Navigation Links
Soil microbes alter DNA in response to warming
Date:1/16/2014

As scientists forecast the impacts of climate change, one missing piece of the puzzle is what will happen to the carbon in the soil and the microbes that control the fate of this carbon as the planet warms.

Scientists studying grasslands in Oklahoma have discovered that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius in the air temperature above the soil creates significant changes to the microbial ecosystem underground. Compared to a control group with no warming, plants in the warmer plots grew faster and higher, which put more carbon into the soil as the plants senesce. The microbial ecosystem responded by altering its DNA to enhance the ability to handle the excess carbon.

"What we conclude from this study is the warming has an effect on the soil ecosystem," said Kostas Konstantinidis, an assistant professor who holds the Carlton S. Wilder Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It does appear that the microbes change genetically to take advantage of the opportunity given to them."

The study was published online Dec. 27, 2013, in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The research was sponsored by the Department of Energy, and involved collaboration with several universities, including the University of Oklahoma.

The findings are the culmination of a 10-year study that seeks to understand how the most intricate ecosystem in nature soil will respond to climate change.

A single gram of soil is home to a billion bacterial cells, representing at least 4,000 different species. In comparison, the human gut is home to at least 10 times fewer different species of bacteria. Scientists have little idea what microbes in the soil do, how they do it, or how they respond to changes in their environment, Konstantinidis said. This limits the predictive capabilities of climate models.

"In models of climate change it is a black box what happens to the carbon in soil," Konstantinidis said. "One reasons that models of climate change have such big room for variation is because we don't understand the microbial activities that control carbon in the soil."

Complicating matters, 99.9 percent of the microbes in the soil cannot be grown in the lab, so scientists must study them where they live. The molecular and genomic techniques to do so are a specialty of the Konstantinidis lab.

The researchers traveled to the Kessler Farm Field Laboratory in McClain County, Oklahoma, where they conducted their study on grassland soils, which had been abandoned for agriculture use for more than 20 years. The scientists warmed plots of soil with radiators set a few feet above the ground for 10 consecutive years. They warmed these plots 2 degrees Celsius, which many climate models forecast as the global temperature increase over the next 50 years.

The researchers took samples of the plants, measured the carbon content and the number of microbes in the soil, and documented any changes in the warm plots versus the control plots. The team also extracted DNA from the soil and identified the genetic composition and changes of the microbes living there.

The plants in the warm plots grew better and higher. As the plants started senescing at the end of the season, their higher biomass led to more carbon in the soil. However, the microbial communities had increased their rate of respiration, which converted soil organic carbon to carbon dioxide (CO2), so the total carbon in the warm and control soils was similar.

The microbial communities in the warm soils had undergone significant changes during the decade of the experiment, which facilitated their higher respiration rate. For instance, the study of the DNA of the microbes revealed found that the microbial communities of the warm plots had more genes related to carbon respiration than the microbes in the control plots.

"That was consistent with the idea that the additional carbon from the plants was all respired and converted to CO2," Konstantinidis said. "We saw that the warmed microbial community was more efficient in eating up the plant-derived soil carbon and making it CO2."

The research team plans to do similar studies in other agricultural soils and in colder areas, such as Alaska tundra permafrost ecosystems, where there is more organic carbon in the soil.

"There are complex interactions between plants and microbes and we need to understand them better to have a more predictive understanding of what's going on," Konstantinidis said. "This is the first study trying to do that, but we are not close to the complete understanding yet."


'/>"/>

Contact: Brett Israel
brett.israel@comm.gatech.edu
404-385-1933
Georgia Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Killer silk: Making silk fibers that kill anthrax and other microbes in minutes
2. Breast-fed babies gut microbes contribute to healthy immune systems
3. Honoring the fundamental role of microbes in the natural history of our planet
4. CU-Boulder-led team finds microbes in extreme environment on South American volcanoes
5. AGU: Unique microbes found in extreme environment
6. Waves of Berkeley Lab responders deploy omics to track Deepwater Horizon cleanup microbes
7. Gut microbes battle a common set of viruses shared by global populations
8. MBL scientists to explore hidden realm of microbes, viruses beneath the ocean floor
9. Stanford-Penn State scientists use microbes to make clean methane
10. Microbes make clean methane
11. Roots and microbes: Bringing a complex underground ecology into the lab
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Soil microbes alter DNA in response to warming
(Date:11/30/2016)... and WARSAW, Poland , Nov. 30, 2016 ... is one of the most crucial aspects of recovery so we need to do ... serious health risks, including heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer. ... friends sleep and find a Christmas present that could help them to manage their ... ...
(Date:11/29/2016)... , Nov. 29, 2016   ... identification and object recognition technologies, today released ... for fingerprint recognition solutions that run on ... fingerprint template using less than 128KB of ... compact devices that have limited on-board resources, ...
(Date:11/24/2016)... IRVINE, Calif. , Nov. 23, 2016 ... help endurance athletes and their trainers non-invasively measure ... Variability Index, Pulse Rate, and Respiration Rate in approximately ... Ember enables users easy and immediate access to key ... as part of a training regimen. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/6/2016)... ... December 06, 2016 , ... ... 1, 2016 asking the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to consider OA as a ... OARSI is concerned about the growing population of OA patients, many of whom ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... Colorado (PRWEB) , ... December 06, 2016 , ... ... dynamic aqueous plasma technology platforms, announced today that the company has engaged in ... Research and Development Agreement (MRDA) with the CSU Office of the Vice President ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... , Dec. 6, 2016  Creative Medical Technology ... , MD, PhD, FANA, FAAN to the Company,s Scientific ... and clinical trials to assist the Company,s clinical development ... AmnioStem product is a universal donor stem cell derived ... in animal models of stroke 1 .  ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... Australia , Dec. 6, 2016  The ... Informatics Society of Australia (HISA) today announced the ... startup exchange program between Australia ... in the world. HISA and the ... initiating a program to create a global health innovation ...
Breaking Biology Technology: