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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.