Small Deep Breaths: bacteria and global warming

Bacterial Breath

Like we do, most bacteria respire, that is they convert carbon containing compounds, into carbon dioxide and water, and as an outcome of this process generate cellular energy. Unfortunately, for us there are far more bacteria on the planet that there are people and as a consequence bacteria produce rather a lot of carbon dioxide. In fact  the microbes that break down plant matter in soil release 55 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere, which represents around eight times the amount that humans are putting into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.  As the temperature of our planet increases, we will inevitably alter the activity of planet’s microbes and through this fundamentally their impact on the Earth’s climate. They might respond in a number of ways, by respiring at a greater rate, and thus producing greenhouse gases at a far faster rate than they do today, or alternatively, they may lessen impact of climate change by absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These patterns are formed by the respiration of bacteria in soil, as its end products condense onto a specially cooled and prepared hydrophobic surface. As you explore the image, remember, the planets microbes have already decided our future, in the context of climate change

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