Our planet teeters on the brink of massive ecosystem collapses, and arid regions experience manifold environmental and climatic challenges that increase the magnitude of selective pressures on already stressed ecosystems. Ultimately, this leads to their aridification and desertification, that is, to simplified and barren ecosystems (with proportionally less microbial load and diversity) with altered functions and food webs and modification of microbial community network. Thus, preserving and restoring soil health in such a fragile biome could help buffer climate change's effects. We argue that microorganisms and the protection of their functional properties and networks are key to fight desertification. Specifically, we claim that it is rational, possible and certainly practical to rely on native dryland edaphic microorganisms and microbial communities as well as dryland plants and their associated microbiota to conserve and restore soil health and mitigate soil depletion in newly aridified lands. Furthermore, this will meet the objective of protecting/stabilizing (and even enhancing) soil biodiversity globally. Without urgent conservation and restoration actions that take into account microbial diversity, we will ultimately, and simply, not have anything to protect anymore.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study is supported by KAUST WDRC CCF funding FCC/1/1971‐44‐01. We thank Dr Marco Fusi for critically reviewing the manuscript and the graphic designer Claudia Andreotti for drawing the images of the figure.
© 2023 The Authors. Microbial Biotechnology published by Applied Microbiology International and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology