From The University of Oklahoma: “OU Research Finds that a Warming Climate Decreases Microbial Diversity”

From The University of Oklahoma

June 14, 2022

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Researchers at the Institute for Environmental Genomics at the University of Oklahoma are investigating plant diversity and taking samples for microbial diversity analysis.

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Researchers use a heater to simulate climate warming at a long-term multifactor experimental field site at the University of Oklahoma.

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma have found that the warming climate is decreasing microbial diversity which is essential for soil health. Led by Jizhong Zhou, Ph.D., the director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics at OU, the research team conducted an eight-year experiment that found that climate warming played a predominant role in shaping microbial biodiversity, with significant negative effect. Their findings are published in Nature Microbiology.

“Climate change is a major driver of biodiversity loss from local to global scales, which could further alter ecosystem functioning and services,” Zhou said. “Despite the critical importance of below ground soil biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem functions, how climate change might affect the richness and abundant distribution of soil microbial communities (bacteria, fungi, protists) was unresolved.”

Using a long-term multifactor experimental field site at OU, researchers with the university’s Institute for Environmental Genomics examined the changes of soil microbial communities in response to experimental warming, altered precipitation and clipping (annual biomass removal) on the grassland soil bacterial, fungal and protistan biodiversity since 2009.

“Our findings show explicit evidence that long-term climate warming reduces microbial biodiversity in a field setting,” Zhou said. “Additionally, this is the first study documenting the differential responses of both spore- and nonspore-forming microbes to climate warming, and this is the first study documenting the predominate role of warming in regulating microbial biodiversity.

“Our findings have important implications for predicting ecological consequences of climate change and for ecosystem management,” he added. “In addition, since the effects of climate warming on biodiversity is primarily reduced moisture, it is expected that warming-induced biodiversity loss could be more severe in drylands – arid, semi-arid and dry-subhumid ecosystems that cover 41% of land worldwide.”

Zhou says a better understanding of future warming-induced precipitation changes could be important in mitigating the warming-induced biodiversity decreases.

The research is supported by funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, DE-SC0004601 and DE-SC0010715. Zhou is also a George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences and an adjunct professor in the Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

See the full article here.

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The The University of Oklahoma is a public research university in Norman, Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, it had existed in Oklahoma Territory near Indian Territory for 17 years before the two became the state of Oklahoma. In Fall 2018 the university had 31,702 students enrolled, most at its main campus in Norman. Employing nearly 3,000 faculty members, the school offers 152 baccalaureate programs, 160 master’s programs, 75 doctorate programs, and 20 majors at the first professional level.

The university is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation, University of Oklahoma spent $283 million on research and development in 2018, ranking it 82nd in the nation. Its Norman campus has two prominent museums, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, specializing in French Impressionism and Native American artwork, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, specializing in the natural history of Oklahoma.

The university has won multiple national championships in multiple sports, including seven football national championships and two NCAA Division I baseball championships. The women’s softball team has won the national championship four times: in 2000, 2013, and consecutively in 2016 and 2017. The gymnastics teams have won a combined 11 national championships since 2002, with the men’s team winning eight in the last 15 years, including three consecutive titles from 2015 to 2017.