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Bacteria Climate Roundup

April 25, 2008

The Kalahari desert is not as lifeless as you might think.


Desert bacteria and climate change. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The Kalahari Desert of Botswana looks like a vast, lifeless expanse. But scientists at the annual meeting of the Society for General Microbiology reported that the dry sands there are held together by a living crust of cyanobacteria. These single-celled organisms pull carbon dioxide into the soil. Other bacteria deeper in the sands release CO2 back into the air. Understanding the process will add to understanding climate change.

In other soil news, researchers at Newcastle University in England are hoping to create soils that hold onto carbon dioxide released by plant roots. They say that soil rich in calcium binds the CO2 and keeps it out of the atmosphere. If so, then soil additives might be one more way to slow down global warming. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.