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The Vulnerability of Microbial Ecosystems in a Changing Climate: Potential Impact in Shark Bay

School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
Australian Centre for Astrobiology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 July 2019 / Revised: 22 August 2019 / Accepted: 28 August 2019 / Published: 2 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Microbiology)
The potential impact of climate change on eukaryotes, including humans, has been relatively well described. In contrast, the contribution and susceptibility of microorganisms to a changing climate have, until recently, received relatively less attention. In this review, the importance of microorganisms in the climate change discourse is highlighted. Microorganisms are responsible for approximately half of all primary production on earth, support all forms of macroscopic life whether directly or indirectly, and often persist in “extreme” environments where most other life are excluded. In short, microorganisms are the life support system of the biosphere and therefore must be included in decision making regarding climate change. Any effects climate change will have on microorganisms will inevitably impact higher eukaryotes and the activity of microbial communities in turn can contribute to or alleviate the severity of the changing climate. It is of vital importance that unique, fragile, microbial ecosystems are a focus of research efforts so that their resilience to extreme weather events and climate change are thoroughly understood and that conservation efforts can be implemented as a response. One such ecosystem under threat are the evolutionarily significant microbial mats and stromatolites, such as those present in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Climate change models have suggested the duration and severity of extreme weather events in this region will increase, along with rising temperatures, sea levels, and ocean acidification. These changes could upset the delicate balance that fosters the development of microbial mats and stromatolites in Shark Bay. Thus, the challenges facing Shark Bay microbial communities will be presented here as a specific case study. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; microorganisms under stress; microbial mats climate change; microorganisms under stress; microbial mats
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Reinold, M.; Wong, H.L.; MacLeod, F.I.; Meltzer, J.; Thompson, A.; Burns, B.P. The Vulnerability of Microbial Ecosystems in a Changing Climate: Potential Impact in Shark Bay. Life 2019, 9, 71.

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