‘Microbes cause Earth to function — from plants to humans, we all live due to microbial activity’

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This article talks about why microbes are essential to life and the threat it faces from climate change.

Why are Microbes essential to Earth’s species?

Source: TOI

Microbial activities are foundational for the functioning of our planet.  Without microbes, there is no chance that plants, animals, or humans would have ever evolved or been able to sustain life. 

Microbes are involved in each one of Earth’s large geochemical cycles. They are the producers of oxygen in the oceans. They generate much of the sulphur and nitrogen that living beings need. 

In plants, chloroplast, the remnants of bacteria, conducts photosynthesis to produce energy and oxygen. 

Microbial activity in the soil causes food to grow. 

Do microbes cause diseases?

Source: TOI

There are millions of species of microbes on our planet, of which just a few can cause disease in humans. 

But there are innumerable diverse species that are very beneficial to us. For example, much of the food we consume is also processed by microbes — in cooking, microbes transform food, making it safer. 

What is the impact of Climate Change on Microbes?

There is direct evidence already that microbial life is changing dramatically due to climate change. 

For instance, due to excessive use of fertilizers over the last seven decades — microbial activities in soil worldwide have changed enormously. Depleted soils won’t be able to stay productive in the long run — which will cause problems in food production.

What is the significance of the Geosime molecule?

It is a wonderful molecule produced by bacteria and fungi in the soil.

Insects recognize this molecule and coat themselves with these organisms. This provides the microorganisms a way to transport themselves to greener pastures. 

These microorganisms also make molecules we call antibiotics that balance ecosystems and keep pathogens away.

Source: The post is based on the article “Microbes cause Earth to function — from plants to humans, we all live due to microbial activity” published in TOI on 11th June 2022.

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