FRANCISCO J. AYALA SCHOOL OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

UCI’s Steven Allison conducts research at the Loma Ridge field site in Orange County.

Microbes, drought and greenhouse gas emissions

A $3 million Department of Energy grant is allowing UCI biologists to explore how drought affects surface soil microbes that are vital to the exchange of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – among the Earth’s oceans, plants, soil and air. Steven Allison, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, is working with UCI colleagues and investigators at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to develop biological approaches to predict carbon release from soil under drought conditions. Soil microbial communities are necessary for sustaining plant life and storing carbon, but climate change-created drought patterns may alter them – drought could influence these communities to favor survival over growth, or produce chemical compounds that affect carbon storage. Allison says the project is likely to improve predictions of carbon cycle responses to precipitation change, leading to a greater understanding of climate change consequences.

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