Single-celled organisms are the engines of the global biogeochemical cycles, driving nearly half of all photosynthesis globally and nearly all decomposition, moving elements among the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere.At Ecoss we study how soil microbes are affected by heat waves in Arizona, by the extreme cold of Antarctica, and the constant temperature of hot springs in the western U.S. and China.
Artist rendition of wildfire changing the future ecosystem of a forested area. Copyright Victor Leshyk Overview Fire, a natural ecological disturbance, has been suppressed in U.S. forests for much of the past century. This has prevented damage to property and protected timber resources, but has caused many forests to develop in an unnatural manner, resulting in dense stands of small trees that are now poised to fuel catastrophic fires when they do ignite. A warming and drying climate exacerbates this risk. How forests function has big impacts to the global carbon cycle; when trees grow they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and when they burn, some of that is returned to the atmosphere. Through direct field work and modeling efforts, we have demonstrated that combinations of forest thinning and controlled burning can reduce fire risk and increase forest carbon...
We study soil microbial communities in Antarctica, microbes in hot spring ecosystems in Tengchong, China, methane production at Axel Heiberg Island near Greenland as an analog for life on other planets, and the distribution of soil microbial communities across the arid Southwest.