In as early as fifty years one of the most devastating effects of global warming could be apparent with the erosion of farming soil due to the extinction of the very microbes that hold soil together. The microbes are likely to be affected by warming which could affect soil fertility. The tiny microbes; one of the most important communities on the planet make life possible for the rest of creation, according to new research by scientists in the US and Spain.
Ferrari Garcia-Pichel and colleagues report in the journal Science that they examined cyanobacteria in desert soils through the whole of North America. They found that two species dominated. One, called Microceleus steenstrupii, lives in the hot deserts while the other, M. vaginatus, prefers cold dry places.
But, of course, the planet is becoming warmer with each decade. “By using our data with current climate models, we can predict that in 50 years, the cyanobacterium that fares better in warm temperatures will push the cold-loving one off our map,” said Professor Garcia-Pichel.
Crytogramic soil (also known as soil crust or biocrust) is usually found in arid environments and can be made up of cyanobacteria, mosses and lichen.
The real hazard, for humans and other creatures that depend on cyanobacteria – and that adds up to all life on Earth – is that there is likely to be a knock-on effect on soil fertility, and soil erosion: it is the “living crusts” formed by these microbes that in many places hold the soil together, and sometimes researchers try to combat cases of severe erosion by injecting these cyanobacteria into the dust to act as soil stabilisers.Scientists have known that global warming will have an affect on the habitats of plants and animals, but this new study shows that the very soil used to grow our food may be compromised by our warming planet.