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Syed Abbas Naqvi

Bio 41
5/10/2010

Soil Microbes and the Production of Carbon Dioxide

According to a news release titled, “Soil microbes produce less atmospheric CO2
than expected with climate warming,” microbes, in the form of bacteria or fungi, would
release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if climate warming were to occur. The
news release states that microbes are like humans in that they receive their carbon
based fuel from their environment and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, just
like humans when they breathe. However, new evidence shows that if there is a
increase in the temperature of the area in which these microbes live, these microbes
can become less efficient in reproducing and multiply at a slower pace when
overheated. Based on a new model devised to show the carbon dioxide output of these
microbes, researches have given reason to why this may be. The new’s release states
“A model developed by the researchers shows microbes exhaling carbon dioxide
furiously for a short period of time in a warmer environment, leaving less carbon
to grow on. As warmer temperatures are maintained, the less efficient use of
carbon by the microbes causes them to decrease in number, eventually resulting
in less carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.”
According to this statement, the microbes would, be releasing a large amount of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere. Based on this, one can infer that this furious exhalation of
carbon dioxide is a result of an increase in energy use, which would imply an increase
in reproduction rate, and ultimately a massive increase in population size. However,
because no single environment can provide a population with an unlimited amount of
resources to survive, the population of microbes would eventually reach its carrying
capacity. And because there wouldn’t be enough carbon to sustain the population
anymore, there would be a decrease in the number of microbes present. And ultimately,
this will cause a decrease in the number of microbes present in the soil, which implies a
smaller amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
Overall, these findings contradict what was previously thought, that microbes
would continue to emit ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, invariant of the
temperature. And these increases in carbon dioxide emission are most likely the result
of an increase in population of these microbes. Yet, according to the news release, if the
microbes were able to adapt to the increase in temperature, they would be able to
overcome the this slowdown in the reproduction rate and would be able to reproduce
normally or at an even faster rate; this would dramatically increase the amount of
carbon dioxide that is emitted. According to the news release, one way that the
microbes would be able to adapt to the warmth would be through an increased
production of enzymes by the microbes.
It was stated in the article that these microbes were considered as “destructive
agents of global warming” by many scientists in the field. Because the microbes
become less efficient at converting the carbon they get form the soil to atmospheric
carbon dioxide as global temperatures increase, as the temperature gets warmer, they
have a harder time producing the compound that was contributing to the global
temperature increase in the first place. If, however, the microbes are able to overcome
the effects of a global temperature increase, they would be able to reproduce at an
unaffected rate which would cause a rather large increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
And because carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases that have been
contributing to global warming, a large increase in the production of carbon dioxide
would most likely result in an increased rate of global warming. This phenomena
contributes mainly to the branch of biology that is ecology. Based on how intense the
amount of carbon dioxide emission is, animals, including humans, are going to have to
face the consequences. One possible scenario may be that weather patterns will
become more erratic because of the global warming caused by the carbon dioxide
emissions. Or another may be that the microbes will not be able to adapt to the increase
in global temperature and carbon dioxide emissions may actually decrease. In either
case, both animals and plants would have differing interactions with the environment
based on which variation of the cases actually occurs. And from this biologist and
ecologists are going to have to study the consequences of an increase, decrease, or
consistency in the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere due to
the behavior of the microbes.
When I transfer, I want to study ecology or environmental engineering. So
whether or not these microbes are contributing a large amount of carbon dioxide into
the atmosphere is relevant to me because it parallels with what I want to study. I wish to
study ways to contain and control emissions of carbon dioxide to reduce the effect this
greenhouse gas has on the environment and its contribution to global warming. Some of
the ways to combat an increase in emissions from these microbes is to promote the
conservation of rain forests and the planting of more trees so that they can use the
carbon dioxide that is produced from these microbes. Apart from being of interest to me
and a leading factor of what I wish to study, an increase or decrease in the production of
carbon dioxide by these microbes has a direct impact on the future of all animals,
including humans. If the microbes adapt to the increase in global temperature and are
able to produce an increased amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, this will
most likely increase the rate of global warming. And because of global warming,
animals, including humans, and plants will begin to interact with their environment
differently. Also, global warming may cause changes in weather patterns that will be
apparent in the future based on the severity of the global warming. And it is very
possible that an adaptation of these microbes could be a contributing factor into global
warming and weather pattern changes. Therefore, the behavior of these microbes are
not only important to those who wish to study the effects of an adaptation of these
microbes, but it is also important to any living thing. This is mainly because an increase
in production of carbon dioxide by the microbes could cause global warming which
would directly affect how living organisms interact with their environment and how the
organism’s environment would affect them.