Climate change is not just global warming: Multidimensional impacts on animal gut microbiota

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Seasonal changes (e.g., wet season versus dry season) encompass shifts in many variables including temperature, rainfall, resources and day length. These changes may alter water availability, environmental microbiota and host diet.

Climate change has rapidly altered many ecosystems, with detrimental effects for biodiversity across the globe. In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that the microorganisms that live in and on animals can substantially affect host health and physiology, and the structure and function of these microbial communities can be highly sensitive to environmental variables.

To date, most studies have focused on the effects of increasing mean temperature on gut microbiota, yet other aspects of climate are also shifting, including temperature variation, seasonal dynamics, precipitation and the frequency of severe weather events. This array of environmental pressures might interact in complex and non-intuitive ways to impact gut microbiota and consequently alter animal fitness.

Therefore, understanding the impacts of climate change on animals requires a consideration of multiple types of environmental stressors and their interactive effects on gut microbiota.

In a mini review published in Applied Microbiology International, Willliams et al., presented an overview of some of the major findings in research on climatic effects on microbial communities in the animal gut. Although ample evidence has now accumulated that shifts in mean temperature can have important effects on gut microbiota and their hosts, much less work has been conducted on the effects of other climatic variables and their interactions.

This paper provided recommendations for additional research needed to mechanistically link climate change with shifts in animal gut microbiota and host fitness.

Full mini review.

Image credits: Williams et al., Applied Microbiology International (2023)

Targeting Microbiota 2023 will dedicate a whole session to : Environment, Lifestyle & Microbiota: A "One Health" Approach. You can submit a related abstract here.

Media contact:

International Society of Microbiota

Targeting Microbiota 2023 Congress
October 17-19, 2023 
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