Climate change speeds up microbial change

February 10th, 2012 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 10 (IANS) Climate change could affect Antarctica’s Dry Valleys more rapidly than previously expected, particularly the microbial communities in the soil, a study reveals.

“We used to think that microbial change took place slowly over centuries,” said Craig Cary, professor at the University of Waikato, who led the study.

“It’s important we keep documenting the current biodiversity in Antarctica so we can predict the effects of climate change,” said Cary, the journal Nature Communications reported.

To do this, the researchers transferred a 250-year-old carcass to an untouched site and used community DNA fingerprinting and new sequencing techniques to track the changes in microbial composition and structure.

It took only two years for major changes to occur during the five-year study, a university statement said.

“The research we’ve been doing indicates that the bacteria living in the soil are inherently sensitive to climate variability — minor temperature variations could lead to cascading changes in hydrology and biogeochemical cycling and could dramatically affect ecosystem function,” said Cary.

Polar systems are particularly susceptible to climate change and this study will provide a foundation for future observations on the fate of life in these extreme environments, added Cary.

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