Importance of Microbial Diversity and Conservation by Charnpreet S.
What would you do if you learned that millions of potential lifesaving treatments were removed from existence? If a new, cheap, form of energy was lost before it was found? It could be happening right now. Microorganisms potentially hold the key to solve countless problems. That’s right, I’m talking about bacteria, viruses, and fungi. As things stand now, we have only described and studied between 0.1 to 1% of all bacterial species. (Colwell, 1997) That means there are millions of species that we have yet to even learn about. That’s only bacteria, there are still virus and fungi.
I know it sounds crazy but stick with me. Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, by studying a mold. Since Fleming’s groundbreaking study, scientists have isolated hundreds of antibiotics from bacteria. So, the things that are making you better when you have a bacterial infection came from bacteria. Now imagine, how much more is there to discover in the other 99% of bacteria that have yet to be explored.
And there’s more! Let’s not forget the plants. Fungi are essential to breakdown decaying organisms and are a key part of the ecosystem. Some fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, make there way into plant roots and deliver them nutrients. (Bonfante & Genre, 2010) Without fungi, the world would be a much different place. We would have all the plant life that we take for granted.
Now you know that microorganisms play a huge role in life as we know it. Without them, things would not be the same. Yet, they are disappearing at a rate that we can’t even measure. Microorganisms, like other living things, have a home that they live in. In our never-ending hunt for resources and energy, we humans are destroying the natural habitats of many microorganisms. (Colwell, 1997) We have to make a stand and fight for these little guys. They can’t do it themselves. We have to change how we tap into our resources and conserve the environments that these microbes live in. Conserving diverse environments means more microbial diversity and more potential for find new treatments and cures.