Zoe Cardon Joins American Society for Microbiology Leaders' Report on Mitigating Methane Emissions
The American Academy of Microbiology, the leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), released a new climate change report this week highlighting strategies to mitigate methane emissions by leveraging microbes. MBL Senior Scientist Zoe Cardon participated in the colloquium on which the report, The Role of Microbes in Mediating Methane Emissions, is based.
"Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas but it has a short lifetime (10 years) in the atmosphere," Cardon says. "So anything we can do right now to reduce our methane emissions can have an important and quick effect as we fight to slow global warming in the near term. We need long-term solutions too, but quick, tractable, and inexpensive shorter-term solutions buy us time as we spin up the longer-term solutions for controlling emissions of all greenhouse gases, including methane as well as CO2".
Microbes can influence climate change through biogeochemical cycles that consume or produce greenhouse gases. Microbes are major consumers and producers of methane, so understanding the diverse metabolic capabilities of microbes can help scientists better develop microbial solutions that address the issue of methane emissions.
“By understanding the roles of microbes in mediating methane emissions, we open up a wide range of promising solutions to address the climate challenge,” said Vanessa Sperandio, chair of the Academy Governors. “More than ever, the scientific community needs to work together to urgently bring forward these solutions.”
The report is the result of discussions by participating experts at the colloquium on May 31 and June 1, 2023, organized by ASM and the American Geophysical Union with additional support from the Soil Science Society of America. The participants’ expertise covered a variety of disciplines, and they identified gaps in knowledge that must be explored and potential strategies to address methane emissions.
The report recommends developing solutions that leverage microbes to mediate methane emissions from 4 main sources: enteric fermentation in ruminant animals (such as cows or sheep), animal wastes, rice paddies and landfills.
"What is really inspiring about this report for me personally, and I hope for all who read it, is that there are actions we can take right now that are very low-cost and effective options for reducing methane emissions to the atmosphere," Cardon says.
The colloquium was part of the Academy’s 5-year Climate Change and Microbes Portfolio that focuses on furthering scientific understanding of climate change and microbes. To complement the new report and serve as a practical next step, ASM will release a Microbial Methane Mitigation research roadmap in December, outlining current knowledge gaps and first-order research priorities for experts to use microbes to combat increasing methane emissions. Learn more about the impact of microbes on climate change on ASM’s Microbes and Climate Change resource page.
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.