Livestock Antibiotics Combine with Rising Temperatures to Disrupt Soil Microbes

Research published by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies explored how the combined stressors of rising temperatures and residual livestock antibiotics interact to affect soil microbial function. The research team found that heat and antibiotics disrupt soil microbial communities, degrading soil microbe efficiency, resilience to future stress, and ability to trap carbon. This research focused on the common livestock antibiotic Monensin, which is poorly metabolised and still active in the waste of treated livestock. With rising heat and antibiotic additions under laboratory conditions, soil bacteria populations collapsed, allowing fungi to dominate and homogenize, resulting in fewer total microbes and less microbial diversity overall. Senior author Michael Strickland, at the University of Idaho, says, “Forces of environmental change do not play out in isolation. Our results show that heat alone, antibiotics alone, and heat and antibiotics together all have different effects on soil microbial communities. These findings highlight the importance of testing multiple stressors simultaneously to more fully understand how our soils, and the essential functions they perform, are changing.”