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Microbial Activity a Component in Climate Change.

Managing microbial activity can play a significant role in slowing the adverse effects of greenhouse gases and other global environmental changes, according to a new report from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). "Global Environmental Change: Microbial Contributions, Microbial Solutions" points out that the basic chemistry of Earth's surface is determined by biological activity, especially that of the many trillions of microbes in soil and water. Microbes make up the majority of the living biomass on Earth and have major roles in the recycling of elements vital to life. Since the microbial world can contribute to, as well as mitigate, global change, an understanding of its activities is important to policy decisions and regulations.

Microbial roles in global change include producing and consuming atmospheric gases that affect climate; mobilizing toxic elements such as mercury, arsenic, and selenium; and producing toxic algal blooms and creating oxygen depletion zones in lakes, rivers, and coastal environments (eutrophication). Furthermore, the incidence of microbial diseases such as plague, cholera, Lyme disease, and West Nile Virus is linked to global change.

The report makes four recommendations for enhancing microbiological solutions to global change:

* Integrate the understanding of microbiological processes from the organism level to the ecosystem level. Doing so will lead to an improved understanding of the global carbon budget, eutrophication, and changes in greenhouse gases.

* Discover, characterize, and harness the abilities of microbes that transform active greenhouse trace gases and toxic elements.

* Establish multiyear research programs that draw on microbiology and partner disciplines such as earth and atmospheric sciences to gain an integrated understanding of complex global change problems.

* Begin training scientists and policy makers for the complex environmental problems of the future.

The report can be accessed at [less than][greater than].
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Article Details
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Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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