Lau, J. A., J. T. Lennon, and K. D. Heath. 2017. Trees harness the power of microbes to survive climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114:11009-11011.
Microorganisms are the most abundant and diverse taxa on Earth. They have the ability to tolerate extreme environments, catalyze a range of metabolic functions, and rapidly evolve in response to changing environmental conditions. Imagine if plants and animals could harness these powers. In fact, microorganisms confer numerous benefits to plants and animals. For example, microorganisms in the mammalian gut improve nutrition, reduce susceptibility to disease, and even alter host behavior (1). Some of the most complex microbiomes are found in soils, where they are responsible for nutrient cycling, crop yield, and carbon sequestration (2). In some cases, soil microbes can even rescue plants from the negative consequences of climate change (3). If plants and animals can build associations with specific microbial members that maximize benefits, then harnessing microbial powers may provide rapid and efficient solutions to the challenges resulting from global change.
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