A team of researchers has discovered a new species of soil bacteria that is particularly adept at breaking down organic matter, including chemicals released from gas, coal, oil and many wastes when burned.
The discovery was made by Cornell University’s professor of microbial ecology Dan Buckley, who together with several colleagues from Lycoming College published a new study in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.
The new bacterium, named by researchers Paraburkholderia madseniana, was isolated from forest soil and is named after Gene Madsen, a professor of microbiology who had participated in the research without being able to conclude it since he died in 2017.
The genus to which the new bacterium, Paraburkholderia, belongs is related to bacteria that are already known for their ability to degrade organic compounds.
Precisely for this reason these bacteria are interesting because they can also degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a peculiarity that was also the subject of research by Buckley and colleagues.
These bacteria, therefore, could be used for the biodegradation of the carbon cycle, a cycle disrupted in recent decades precisely because of human carbon emissions.
“Soils, each year, treat about seven times more carbon than all human emissions from cars, power plants and heating systems worldwide in their natural work of decomposing plant material. Because the amount of carbon that passes through the soil is so large, small changes in the way we manage the soil could have a big impact on climate change,” explains Buckley, who wants to fully understand with his team how this bacteria breaks down soil carbon, which could be important for the sustainability of the soil itself and the future of the world’s climate in general.