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Bacterial communication could affect Earth's climate

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#1 Orpheus


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Posted 13 October 2011 - 10:38 PM

Bacterial communication could affect Earth's climate

I'm posting this as an indication of just one role of just one species on our global climate. Is it realistic that microbes could have a significant effect on the planet's atmosphere? Our oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere was created by microbes from the ammonia, methane, and other gases found in the rest of the solar system. It is so unstable and reactive that it wouldn't persist if life were eradicated by, say, a Gamma Ray Burster

At this point in time we know next to nothing about the effects of microbial life on our atmosphere, but it is extremely plausible that microbes still play an important role in sustaining the atmosphere they created. However, since they have been so little studied, especially compared to convenient plants, they don't appear in our models. Including them would leave gaping holes with no data in them -- but there's no evidence that they can be excluded, and if they have unlisted effects, our models will be pretty at the expense of being wrong.

There is strikingly little data on the role of the ocean --80% of the planetary surface-- and even that is almost entirely at the thin skin interface near the air, and not the vast depths that act as massive reservoirs of dissolved gas of comparable magnitude to amount of gas in the atmosphere itself (gas dissolves much better in the cold water of the ocean depths, and even at the modest depths/pressures near the continental shelf, they form vast solid deposits of clathrates -- water+gas complexes that can spontaneously destabilize into gas with small changes in conditions).

I've never been a climate change denier. Quite the opposite! I believe climate change may be so real/foreseeable that we can't legislate it away, that then planet is so big/complex that nothing we can do would reliably reverse the trends in the few decades the politicians demand. The real Inconvenient Truth is that we must take strong action to adapt to climate change, as Man *always* has. Any attempt to "control" climate in the next few decades would be precisely the kind of hubris (deliberately, on a larger scale) AGW believers claim Man has been unwittingly done for centuries. Conserve? Yes. Minimize our impact? Fine. But face the reality that we aren't in control.

We're simply not as big, powerful or wise as we pretend. We must still cower before the might/complexity of nature.

The microbial biomass of Earth easily outmasses humanity and may well outmass all his creations. Add the non-microbial biomass, and Earth's biochemical machinery of life *definitely* outmasses all of mankind's machines and buildings

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