By Patrick Greenfield
A new study has highlighted how little is known about microbes – the hidden majority of life on Earth.
Life on the planet relies on an enormous quantity of bacteria, fungi and other tiny organisms. They generate oxygen, keep soils healthy and regulate the climate. Microbes play a crucial role in food production, such as cheese, beer, yoghurt and bread.
But despite their importance to human life and the health of the Earth, a new scientific paper has shown our “profound ignorance” of microbial biodiversity and how it is changing.
“We have no idea whether global microbial diversity is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same,” said David Thaler, a biologist at Basel University and author of the paper. “Most scientific papers tell us new facts. This is a different kind of paper; it does not answer anything but asks a new question.” Read more …
Photo: Microbial community on surface of kelp. Each dot or filament is a bacterial cell and the different colors indicate different kinds of bacteria. The larger, ridged ovals are single-celled algae called diatoms. Credit: Tabita Ramirez-Puebla and Jessica Mark Welch, Marine Biological Laboratory