When people think of the consequences of global warming, most jump to the melting ice caps and death of beloved polar bears. We know that as our Earth undergoes climate change, it’s adversely affecting the ecological balance in complex ways. For the first time, however, a study done at the University of California Berkley, has linked climate change to the downfall of microbial species that are considered essential to ecological systems. Previous studies have identified the use of chemicals as harmful for soil organisms, insects, and birds, but never has climate change been pinpointed as a threat to these species.
The study states that “models predict that up to 30% of parasitic worms are committed to extinction, driven by a combination of direct and indirect pressures.” With this, species that are adapting to the climate change will allow them to “invade and replace” native organisms resulting in unpredictable, but most likely negative consequences.
Dr. Colin Carlson is the lead author of the study and estimates that we will see a huge extinction rate within the soil organisms as time and climate change continues. He blames this effect on the loss of habitat and the implications of trying to coexist. The end result of this could be detrimental to the human species, requiring lively soil to live.
Carlson explains that the effect of climate change on soil organisms has gone unnoticed for so long because our research focuses on the impact of the change on animals like vertebrates. Most people see microbial organisms as pests, rather than a crucial part of the ecological system. Since the modernization of agriculture, we have seen soil as a medium for holding plants, as Jenny Hopkins, author of “Can American Soil Be Brought Back To Life”, likes to put it. The soil is actually a living super-organism that has been barely surviving due to human additions like fertilizer and other chemical growth products.
Geologist, Dr. David Montgomery discards the idea that parasites and soil organisms are simply pests by stating that they are actually critical to life on Earth. Microbial life is “very nutrient rich-rich in nitrogen, rich in phosphorus, and rich in the micronutrients that all life forms need.” Quoting “A Biological Bazaar”, if the land does not have rich microbial life within its soil, it is not soil at all, but rather dead dirt.
Farmland has increased its dependence and use of chemical materials to aid in the growing of plants and has depleted soils strength to fight off the war of climate change. The organic material within planting grounds have decreased, it has lost its ability to properly retain water, and therefore hold nutrients needed to keep parasites alive.
The health of our soil may not seem relevant, but it impacts the crop health, farm health, ecosystem health, and the quality of our food. Therefore the resilience of our microbial soil life is critical to not only the farmer, or producer; but also the food consumer. Lowering the use of pesticides and chemical products on crops may help shield land from the inevitable future of climate change and mass extinction.
“Study Shows Climate Change Threatens Soil Organisms.” beyondpesticides.org