Series |

Global change

Industrialization, urbanization, progress in modern medicine and technological innovations shape our environment and the way we live our lives. However, besides exciting advances, this global change has negative economic, ecological and social effects. What role do microorganisms have in this global challenge? Climate change can affect microbial community structure and function in the ocean and soil and change host-microbiota interactions with potentially severe consequences for food production, carbon cycling and disease spread. By contrast, microorganisms could also be used to mitigate the effects of climate change. An integrated and informed approach is required to scale up our global response to climate change. In this article series, Nature Reviews Microbiology addresses the relationship between microorganisms and global change, and considers the wider environmental and health challenges.


Global change, including climate change, urbanization and global travel and trade, has affected the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. In the Review, Baker, Metcalf and colleagues examine how global change affects infectious diseases, highlighting examples ranging from COVID-19 to Zika virus disease.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

Biofuels produced by conversion of biomass by engineered microorganisms have the potential to replace fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions. In this Review, Keasling and colleagues discuss engineering of metabolic pathways to produce advanced biofuels and approaches to reduce metabolite toxicity and cost and increase titre, rate and yield.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

Plastic debris in the marine environment provides a durable substrate that can be colonized by microorganisms and supports the growth of microbial biofilms. In this Review, Amaral-Zettler and colleagues explore the microbial ecology of the plastisphere in the context of its diversity and function, as well as suggesting areas for further research.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

In this Review, Jansson and Hofmockel explore the impacts of climate change on soil microorganisms in different climate-sensitive soil ecosystems and the potential ways that soil microorganisms can be harnessed to help mitigate the negative consequences of climate change.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

Invasive alien plants and animals are known to cause disease and disrupt communities. In this Review, Thakur and colleagues discuss examples and impacts of microorganisms that have been introduced in new regions by human activities.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

The microbial majority with which we share Earth often goes unnoticed despite underlying major biogeochemical cycles and food webs, thereby taking a key role in climate change. This Consensus Statement highlights the importance of climate change microbiology and issues a call to action for all microbiologists.

Consensus Statement | Open Access | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

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. In this Comment, Antje Boetius explores how this field could provide essential knowledge and sustainable solutions to the problems driven by global change.

Comment | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

In this Viewpoint article, several experts discuss the microbial contributions to climate change and consider the effects of global warming, extreme weather and other consequences of climate change on microbial communities in the ocean and soil, host–microbiota interactions and the global burden of infectious diseases and ecosystem processes, and they explore open questions and research needs.

Viewpoint | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

In this Opinion article, Sonnenburg and Sonnenburg explore whether individuals in the industrialized world may be harbouring a microbial community that is now incompatible with human biology, and they hypothesize that the modern, industrial lifestyle has contributed to alterations in the microbiota that may be linked to the deterioration of human health.

Perspective | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

Marine oxygen minimum zones are expanding globally as a result of rising temperatures. In this Progress article, Bertagnolli and Stewart describe the ecological and functional diversity of the microbial communities that inhabit these zones and their contribution to biogeochemical cycles.

Progress | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

Cyanobacteria can form large blooms that threaten the water quality of lakes and seas. In this Review, Huisman and colleagues discuss bloom formation, the impact of eutrophication and climate change, and measures to prevent and control cyanobacterial blooms.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology