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Researchers predict climate change-driven reduction in beneficial plant microbes


Bacteria that benefit plants are thought to be a critical contributor to crops and other ecosystems, but climate change may reduce their numbers, according to a new study by an international team of researchers. They have published their findings in Nature Food.

The collaboration, including Francisco Dini-Andreote, professor of plant science at Penn State, characterized the abundances and distributions of plant beneficial bacteria (PBB) from soils collected across the globe. The researchers then modeled how these microbial communities may be impacted by fossil-fuel dependent climate change in the next century.

Leveraging existing data from the Earth Microbiome Project, the researchers identified microbes that may provide services to plants such as biocontrol or limiting impacts of pathogens, plant growth promotion and stress resistance. Such services implicate these bacteria as key components of productive agroecosystems, which primarily yield food.

"Plants are colonized by a diverse set of microbes on and in their roots, leaves and stems," Dini-Andreote said. "These plant-associated microbiomes represent an extension of the plant metabolic capacity—often termed 'the second genome of plants.'"

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