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U.S. Geological Survey - Microbiology

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Climate Change

Microbes and their impact on the Earth's climate are studied to discover the role microbes play in climate change.

Microbiology

Climate Change Research Activities

Climate change will impact microbes, by potentially changing their habitats, providing different or increased metabolic sources and trigger changes in behavior or pathogenicity. Increased soil temperatures can cause increases in soil microbes and rates of metabolism potentially increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Warming soils may also reduce levels of moisture necessary for the survival of some microbes, while allowing others to flourish. In the aquatic environment, photosynthetic microbes or those that prefer warmer temperatures may trigger blooms. Cyanobacteria, often referred to as blue-green algae are increasingly blamed for fish kills and illnesses in humans through release of toxins during these blooms. Warming temperatures can allow pathogen carrying organisms such as insects and birds to colonize new areas and spread both wildlife and human disease.

Carbon Cycling
Earth. Photo credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)Forests and Soil Biogeochemistry, Methanogen and Boreal Peatlands, Microbes and Response to Climate Change, Permafrost Microbiology
Disease Impacts
Heart of adult Chinook salmon showing signs of Ichthyophonus infection. Photo credit: R. Kocan, University of WashingtonAvian Malaria and Hawaiian Forest Birds, Avian Immunity and Climate Change, Climate Change and Fish Health
Permafrost
Sampling for permafrost microorganisms with a permafrost auger. Photo credit: Mark P. Waldrop/USGS Permafrost Microbiology
Symbiotic Adaptation
These rice plants show the difference in growth of rice plants exposed to salt when grown with and without endophytes, which are mutually beneficial microscopic fungi that live in most plants. The plant on the left was colonized with a fungi that made it salt-tolerant, but it wasn't exposed to salt; the plant in the middle was colonized with a fungi that made it more salt-tolerant, and it was exposed to salt; and the plant on the right was the normal rice variety without the fungi and exposed to salt. The difference is dramaticAbiotic Stress, Adapted Symbiosis, Symbiotic endophytes, Salt tolerance, saltwater intrusion, Symbiogenics

Related Links and References

Scientists*
Atkinson, Carter T. Akekekee
Hahn, Caldwell Two brown-headed cowbird nestlings in a hermit thrush nest. Photo credit: Caldwell Hahn, USGS
Kellogg, Christina A.  
Mills, Christopher  
Perakis, Steven Pacific Northwestern forest. Photo credit: USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Rodriguez, Russell J.
 
Waldrop, Mark P. Bonanza creek. Photo credit: Mark P. Waldrop/USGSEarth. Photo credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)Sampling for permafrost microorganisms with a permafrost auger. Photo credit: Mark P. Waldrop/USGS
Winton, James R. Heart of adult Chinook salmon showing signs of Ichthyophonus infection. Photo credit: R. Kocan, University of Washington

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*this list of USGS scientists involved in microbiology and climate change is likely be incomplete


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