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Mighty microbes: Soil microorganisms are combating desertification

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2024-03-29 21:00:02

This article has been reviewed according to Science X's editorial process and policies. Editors have highlighted the following attributes while ensuring the content's credibility:

Desertification is a significant problem for arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions of Earth, whereby grasslands and shrublands become a comparatively barren desert as vegetation disappears over time. This poses an extreme hazard to local ecosystems, as well as communities who rely on these areas for their livelihoods, by increasing soil erosion and reducing water storage, which leads to a loss of biodiversity and agricultural productivity.

A new review of current research into combating desertification, published in Earth-Science Reviews, has identified soil microbes as critical to this mission. Waqar Islam, an Associate Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues explain how a diverse community of bacteria, fungi, archaea and other microorganisms play vital roles in promoting soil health, ultimately impacting ecosystem functions and sustainable land management.

Desertification results from the interplay of both climate change and anthropogenic activities. Increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation and wind patterns, intensification of solar radiation and more frequent extreme weather events (including droughts and El Niño/La Niña cycles) are among some of the environmental causes. Unfortunately, all of these are predicted to intensify in the years to come as climate change progresses, highlighting how desertification may become an ever-more concerning issue.

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