What happens when it rains?

Microorganisms feature a variety of states that permit survival through harsh conditions, such as those they experience in the soil environment during a hot, dry Mediterranean-climate summer. Many microbes produce small cyst-like cells restructured from vegetative cells; others produce spores. Each response provides protection from certain kinds of environmental stress, (e.g., high heat, lack of water). Although these mechanisms may be important for surviving an extended drought, organisms that have entered a dormant state must return to an active state once the rains return. This resuscitation process can be responsible for extremely large increases in respiration (and thus CO2 release to the atmosphere). A high degree of gene coordination may be necessary for surviving the sudden deluge, as well as for entry into and resuscitation from dormant states.

In this paper we show that phylogenetically related groups of soil microbes have similar response trajectories following a rainfall event. Read more about this on the ESD news blog

Placella, S.A., E.L. Brodie, and M.K. Firestone (2012), Rainfall-induced carbon dioxide pulses result from sequential resuscitation of phylogenetically clustered microbial groups. PNAS, DOI: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1204306109. [sorry it’s not open access – please contact Eoin for a reprint if you don’t have access]

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