Life on Earth may owe its existence to tiny microorganisms living in the oceans, but the effect of human-induced change on the vital services these microbes perform for the planet remains largely unstudied, says a report released today by the American Academy of Microbiology, entitled Marine Microbial Diversity: The Key to Earth’s Habitability.
"Since life most likely began in the oceans, marine microorganisms are the closest living descendants of the original forms of life," says Jennie Hunter-Cevera of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, one of the authors of the report, "They are also major pillars of the biosphere; their unique metabolisms allow marine microbes to carry out many steps of the biogeochemical cycles that other organisms are unable to complete. The smooth functioning of these cycles is necessary for life to continue on earth."
Early marine microorganisms also helped create the conditions under which subsequent life developed. More than two billion years ago, the generation of oxygen by photosynthetic marine microorganisms helped shape the chemical environment in which plants, animals, and all other life forms have evolved.
Angelo R. Bouselli | EurekAlert!
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