Science News Desk – Hardly it would have been noticed whether there is any benefit to the ecosystem there due to fire in the forest. In a new study, scientists have found that certain microbes thrive in soil burned by wildfires and play a role in bringing life back there. To better understand how wildfires affect bacteria and fungi, researchers led by mycologist Sidney Glassman studied a 23,000-acre area of the 2018 wildfires.
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside collected samples of the burnt material from nearby unburned soil. They found that after burning, 50 to 80 percent of the total load of microbes was reduced and they could not grow again in the first year. Glassman says that when his team reached the burnt area, there was a lot of ash, which means that the fire was very serious. But some creatures were still alive. Abundance of some species increased and indeed rapid change was observed in burnt soil, on the other hand such abundance was not observed in virgin soil.
The remaining bacteria or microorganisms were present in abundance in the burnt soil. The first year saw a distinct change in microbes with one species declining and another flourishing. In the early stages of research, microorganisms that could tolerate fire and high heat were found. Later, the number of spores of rapidly growing microorganisms started increasing. By the end of the year, organisms that feed on the coal and other residues formed by burning began to dominate.
The study’s first author, Fabiola Pulido-Chavez, found that genes involved in methane metabolism doubled in the species after the fire. He said that this interesting finding suggests that microbes that thrive after fires eat methane to obtain carbon and energy and could be very helpful in reducing greenhouse gases. Researchers continue to investigate whether these characteristics cause fungi and bacteria to grow at different times.
Something similar is also seen in the human body when it reacts to stress or pressure. When people are sick and take antibiotics, they kill off existing bacteria and replace them with new organisms. And then the person’s stomach reaches the condition before infection, but there is no guarantee. Glassman says we are trying to understand what happens that returns Earth to its pre-fire or disturbance state. Much of what they’re studying can be applied to conditions in the human microbiome.