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The Essential Role of Microbiomes - #WorldMicrobiomeDay!

The Essential Role of Microbiomes

Microbiomes, defined as microbial communities in specific habitats with distinct physicochemical properties, are composed of microorganisms and their structural components, including nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, polysaccharides, and various metabolites. They also encompass the activities and dynamics of these microorganisms, forming unique ecological niches.

The Importance of Soil Microbiomes

Soils are a cornerstone of the health, serving as reservoirs of beneficial microorganisms, and overall microbial diversity. This concept emphasizes that human health is inseparably linked to the health of ecosystems, including soil, plants, and animals. Microorganisms play a crucial role in making the health of ecosystems heavily reliant on microbial communities.

Despite their importance, soil microbiomes have received less attention in research until recently. Soil harbors the most diverse and complex microbiome on Earth, with microorganisms representing the largest fraction of global biomass after plants. Bacteria are the most abundant, followed by fungi and archaea.

Soil Microbial Contributions to Health

Soil is the largest reservoir of microbial diversity on Earth. This diverse microbial community directly and indirectly influences soil, plant, animal, and human health. Healthy soils, rich in microbial life, are vital for sustainable ecosystems and are key drivers of health.

Soil health is defined by its capacity to function as a living system, sustaining productivity, maintaining water and air quality, and promoting plant and animal health. Soil health is linked to global food and water security, energy security, and climate change mitigation.

However, soil degradation due to land-use change, erosion, compaction, and pesticide contamination underscores the urgent need to sustain soil ecosystem services. Soil microbial communities are crucial in nutrient cycling, organic matter dynamics, soil structure, carbon transformations, and sequestration. For example, soil is the largest terrestrial pool of carbon, and microbial communities play a significant role in carbon stability.

Human Health and Soil

Human health is intimately connected to soil health. Exposure to natural environments, including soil, is linked to reduced allergic reactions, possibly due to the soil microbiome. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that greater hygiene leads to allergies due to insufficient immune system stimulation, while the biodiversity hypothesis suggests that exposure to diverse microbes in farming environments reduces allergic sensitivity.

Soil microbiomes also regulate the cycling of essential elements in plant-based foods, influencing human nutrition. Soil microorganisms enhance the production of beneficial food components, such as omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins, which are crucial for human health. Moreover, healthy soils contribute to good soil structure, nutrient levels, and environmental processes like water purification and carbon storage.

The Need for Soil Microbiome Monitoring

Recent studies have shown that land-use intensification, urbanization, and landscape simplification reduce soil microbial diversity. Given the soil microbiome's importance, governments should initiate and support systematic monitoring tools to track trends, threats, and long-term developments in soil microbiomes.

In conclusion, soil microbiomes are integral to influencing soil, plant, animal, and human health. Recognizing their importance and taking steps to protect and monitor soil health is crucial for a sustainable and healthy future.


Banerjee, Samiran & Van der Heijden, Marcel. (2022). Soil microbiomes and one health. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 21. 1-15. 10.1038/s41579-022-00779-w.


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