Our planet’s microbiome

Following a rising number of studies highlighting the importance of the human microbiome to our health, we have become a lot more conscious of what we eat and of our overall wellbeing. But should we also be more concerned about our planet’s microbiome?

Maintaining the correct balance of bacterial, viral and fungal species is crucial for healthy ecosystem functioning. A balanced soil microbiome is essential for the growth of crops and wildlife. Also, a diverse microbial community in our oceans and rivers helps feed and support a vast array of species. But many modern-day practices, such as industrial farming practices and the overuse of antibiotics and pesticides, are dramatically reducing the microbial diversity of the environment. This activity may bring potentially detrimental long-term effects.

World with art bacteria

So why is our planet’s microbiome so important? Although too small to be observed by eye, as more research[1] is revealing, these small microbes make a significant difference to our planet’s health. For example, they play a vital role in carbon sequestration, which regulates the temperature of the Earth and helps sustain life. The disruption and depletion of native microbiomes is reducing their ability to store carbon;  this is already leading to rising temperatures globally.

Given our close interaction with the environment, it is likely that damage to the planet’s microbiome will have a knock-on effect for human health. If we are surrounded by fewer microbial species, our microbiome may also become imbalanced. As research suggests, microbial dysbiosis can lead to a variety of health problems. Equally, as explored in our interview last month with Mother Dirt, the natural environment can provide us with a wealth of inspiration and catalyse innovation.

So, what can be done to protect the planet’s microbiome? Widespread recognition of the issue is imperative to facilitate more powerful calls for change. Only then will agricultural, healthcare and consumer goods industries adapt their practices to prevent further damage.

[1] https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-microbiomes-could-save-the-planet/ 

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