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Functions of global ocean microbiome key to understanding environmental changes

Date:
December 10, 2015
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
The billions of marine microorganisms present in every liter of seawater represent a structured ecological community that regulates how Earth functions in practically every way, from energy consumption to respiration. The function and behavior of this community will determine how the global ocean responds to broader environmental changes, according to a new review article.
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The billions of marine microorganisms present in every liter of seawater represent a structured ecological community that regulates how Earth functions in practically every way, from energy consumption to respiration. As inhabitants of the largest environment on Earth, microbial marine systems drive changes in every global system.

The function and behavior of this community will determine how the global ocean responds to broader environmental changes, according to a new review article published in the journal Science by University of Georgia marine scientist Mary Ann Moran.

The ocean microbiome covers the majority of Earth's surface, extending an average of more than 2 miles deep to the sea floor. Made up of an extraordinary diversity of microorganisms, the ocean microbiome was one of the first microbiomes to be studied. As its distribution and makeup become better understood, questions about its functional capabilities under stress have grown.

"Marine microbes make up a vast biological network," said Moran, a Distinguished Research Professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Microbes are responsible for virtually all the photosynthesis that occurs in the ocean, as well as the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients and trace elements. They literally run the oceans."

The article recounts the history of investigations into the microbial communities that populate the ocean--and, critically, help supply a large proportion of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

"A consistent link is emerging between ocean temperature and both the composition and productivity of microbes inhabiting surface seawater," she wrote in Science. "Earth's changing climate will affect characteristics of the ocean microbiome."

Moran explains that, by the mid-1970s, the idea that microorganisms are the major consumers of energy in the sea had been formally articulated and a new paradigm established that this community played a role in every one of Earth's major elemental cycles.

Microbes interact as communities; they respond to disturbances in their surroundings and populations shift and change as their environments are altered. Even as improved technological and data management capabilities have provided a means to greater understanding of the communities' cells, proteins, genes and molecules, linking these constituent parts with their functions remains a challenge.

"Improved understanding of the function of microbiomes is crucial, not only in the ocean but in systems as varied as the human body, agricultural soils and groundwater," Moran said. "The next decade will bring a period of rapid learning about how microbes communicate, redistribute materials and regulate activities that have implications for environmental integrity and human health."


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Georgia. The original item was written by Alan Flurry. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mary Ann Moran. The global ocean microbiome. Science, December 2015 DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8455

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "Functions of global ocean microbiome key to understanding environmental changes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181647.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2015, December 10). Functions of global ocean microbiome key to understanding environmental changes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181647.htm
University of Georgia. "Functions of global ocean microbiome key to understanding environmental changes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210181647.htm (accessed July 28, 2016).

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