Global change microbiology — big questions about small life for our future

Planet Earth, our blue-green spaceship, is under anthropogenic pressure, causing long-lasting or even irreversible changes to its passengers and their habitats. Given the emerging knowledge of how single-cell life shapes all multicellular life and Earth as a whole, it is important to consider the microbial roles in the future path of our spaceship. Global change microbiology is a rapidly growing research field on microbial responses to global warming, overuse and pollution and on feedback mechanisms and functions that affect Earth’s element cycles and planetary health. This field will provide essential knowledge for navigating our spaceship into a sustainable future.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Falkowski, P. G., Fenchel, T. & Delong, E. F. The microbial engines that drive Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. Science 320, 1034–1039 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Thompson, L. R. et al. A communal catalogue reveals Earth’s multiscale microbial diversity. Nature 551, 457–463 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Lewis, S. L. & Maslin, M. A. Defining the Anthropocene. Nature 519, 171–180 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Sterner, T. et al. Policy design for the Anthropocene. Nat. Sustain. 2, 14–21 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hoegh-Guldberg, O. et al. in Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C Ch. 3 (eds Masson-Delmotte, V. et al.) (IPCC, 2019).

  6. 6.

    Gillings, M. R., Paulsen, I. T. & Tetu, S. G. Ecology and evolution of the human microbiota: fire, farming and antibiotics. Genes 6, 841–857 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Le Quere, C. et al. Global carbon budget 2017. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 10, 405–448 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    United Nations Environment Programme. Frontiers 2018/19: emerging issues of environmental concern. UNEP https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/frontiers-201819-emerging-issues-environmental-concern (2019).

  9. 9.

    Pimm, S. L. et al. The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection. Science 344, 1246752 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    McFall-Ngai, M. et al. Animals in a bacterial world, a new imperative for the life sciences. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 3229–3236 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Antje Boetius.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Boetius, A. Global change microbiology — big questions about small life for our future. Nat Rev Microbiol 17, 331–332 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-019-0197-2

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing