By the time medical students have completed school, they are well aware of the basic interconnections between nature and humanity. On its own, nature does not need human intervention, though humans cannot subsist without the natural world. But healthy animals, lively streams and fresh air are not the only requirements for maintaining a flourishing natural world and, therefore, healthy people. Evidently, so are healthy soils. According to two new studies, global warming is causing environmental changes that weaken these soils' abilities to support humans and other species, due to the lack of microbes and fungi they used to contain. The studies, one published in Nature Communications and the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences point out several important environment and health lessons. One of them is critical to understanding why working toward climate solutions is key to maintaining human health. "While rising carbon dioxide levels – such as from burning fossil fuels – could spur plant growth, such an outcome required available nutrients and water. Those elements, particularly water, that may become less available with climate change," said Brajesh Singh, a professor at Western Sydney University and an author of both papers. Now that these medical students have become health professionals, we are calling upon them to address these issues in their practices.
By Peter Hannam I January 28, 2016
The health of the world's soils hinges on the abundance and diversity of the microbes and fungi they contain, and environmental changes including from global warming will undermine their ability to support humans and other species, according to two new studies.
While animal and plant diversity has long been understood to be important, the multiple roles of soils – from the decomposition of organic matter to nutrient cycling and carbon fixing – have been less researched.
One of the studies, published in Nature Communications on Thursday, examined microbial diversity in 78 drylands on all inhabited continents and 179 sites in Scotland. It found that the loss of varieties – such as from climate change increasing arid zones – undermined the services the soils provided.
"As the aridity of soils goes up, the microbial diversity and abundance is reduced," Brajesh Singh, a professor at Western Sydney University and an author of both papers, said. "As the soils' multi-functions are reduced, so there are social and economic consequences."
The second paper, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found the area of the world's drylands – where rainfall and evaporation rates are roughly balanced – is increasing.
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