A group of scientists studied the possible effects a specific bacteria might have in the struggle with global warming. The investigation, led by Dr. Jing Sun and Scholar Steve Giovannoni from Oregon State University, revealed that the free-living bacteria produced a compound that stimulates cloud formation. According to the specialists, a higher presence of cloud formations would keep the sunlight from fully reaching the oceans, which would ultimately cool the planet a little bit. The results were published
According to the specialists, a higher presence of cloud formations would keep the sunlight from fully reaching the oceans, which would ultimately cool the planet a little bit. The results were published in the journal Nature (microbiology) on May 16, 2016.
The Pelagibacterales is one of the free-living bacteria which forms the Alphaproteobacteria group. According to the researching team, the organism developed in a nutrient scarce environment, which would explain its size since it is pretty little, even for this kind of life-form. In spite of its size, the organism is one of the most abundant living forms on Earth. According to Dr. Jonathan Todd from the University of East Angila’s School of Biological Sciences, a teaspoon of ocean water can be the home of up to half a million microbial cells.
Eating the way out of global warming
The Pelagibacterales is a simple organism, and these kind of creatures live only to reproduce. In order to achieve this, they need food among other things – they really like eating methanethiol. But sometimes, these little fellas overeat and when this happens, they need to get rid of the extra energy. The result is an organosulfur compound called Dimethyl Sulfide or DMS. Previous studies have revealed that DMS stimulates the formation of clouds.
But there is more to it. Dr. Emily Fowler from the UEA’s School of Biological Sciences proved that DMS is produced by a formerly unknown enzyme which is present in many other species inhabiting our oceans.
“We propose a model in which the allocation of DMSP between these pathways is kinetically controlled to release increasing amounts of dimethyl sulfide as the supply of DMSP exceeds cellular sulfur demands for biosynthesis.” says the study.
The plan seems simple. We overfeed free-living bacteria – and there is a huge lot of it – with DMSP, so that they naturally produce DMS which would stimulate cloud formation. These formations would cover our seas from the Sun as a huge blanket, and the temperature of the oceans would decrease. It is a simple solution, but it’s too soon to claim victory against global warming.
More studies would be necessary to assess the full impact and viability of the project, but it is a big step in the right direction.