Nature Reviews Microbiology 8, 779-790 (November 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro2439

Microorganisms and climate change: terrestrial feedbacks and mitigation options

Brajesh K. Singh1,2,3, Richard D. Bardgett4, Pete Smith3 & Dave S. Reay5  About the authors


Microbial processes have a central role in the global fluxes of the key biogenic greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and are likely to respond rapidly to climate change. Whether changes in microbial processes lead to a net positive or negative feedback for greenhouse gas emissions is unclear. To improve the prediction of climate models, it is important to understand the mechanisms by which microorganisms regulate terrestrial greenhouse gas flux. This involves consideration of the complex interactions that occur between microorganisms and other biotic and abiotic factors. The potential to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through managing terrestrial microbial processes is a tantalizing prospect for the future.

Author affiliations

  1. Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK.
  2. Centre for Plants and the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South, DCNSW 1797, Australia.
  3. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Cruickshank Building, St Machar Drive, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK.
  4. Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Laboratory, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK.
  5. School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JW, UK.

Correspondence to: Brajesh K. Singh1,2,3 Email:

Published online 15 October 2010