PerspectiveEnvironment

Microbial mass movements

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Science  15 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1099-1100
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao3007

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Summary

For several billion years, microorganisms and the genes they carry have mainly been moved by physical forces such as air and water currents. These forces generated biogeographic patterns for microorganisms that are similar to those of animals and plants (1). In the past 100 years, humans have changed these dynamics by transporting large numbers of cells to new locations through waste disposal, tourism, and global transport and by modifying selection pressures at those locations. As a consequence, we are in the midst of a substantial alteration to microbial biogeography. This has the potential to change ecosystem services and biogeochemistry in unpredictable ways.