Leading International Scientists Publish Essential Guide to Using Microbiomes to Tackle the Global Problem of Biodiversity Loss


A leading group of experts has published a critical framework for using microbiomes to protect wildlife ethically and effectively.

Beneficial Microbes for Marine Organisms (BMMO), an international network of collaborators with expertise in cross-cutting areas of probiotic research, has published an article in Nature Microbiology, Harnessing the microbiome to prevent global biodiversity loss, which provides a scientific framework to accelerate responsible research and development of microbiome solutions.

Marine scientist Dr Raquel Peixoto uses probiotics to boost the recovery of threatened coral ecosystems, pictured here at the world’s first coral probiotic village, located in the Red Sea near King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Photo courtesy of Morgan Bennett Smith/KAUST

Dr Raquel Peixoto, Founder and Co-Chair of BMMO and Associate Professor of Marine Science at KAUST, said: “Key ecosystems, which are home to many forms of life, are on the brink of ecological collapse, leading to huge losses of biodiversity and mass extinctions. , and disrupt ecosystems essential to sustaining livelihoods.

Contributing authors include Professors Gabriele Berg of Graz University of Technology; Christian Voolstra from the University of Konstanz; Ute Hentschel of GEOMAR; Rodrigo Costa from the University of Lisbon; Carlos Duarte of KAUST; and Harvard ethicist Jeantine Lunsh, among other distinguished scholars.

A guide to accelerating the use of macrobiotics to restore coral

Scientists are examining the use of probiotics to “reboot” healthy microbiomes and protect key and sensitive symbiotic relationships between hosts and their associated microbes. Probiotics are now conventionally applied in agroecosystems, showing that successful applications in open environments are possible with controlled risks.

Beneficial microorganisms benefit a variety of life forms, including a) marine life, b) corals, c) bees, and d) terrestrial land forms. Photo: KAUST

The team proposes a scientific framework, describing a path from the laboratory bench to pilot and large-scale applications of microbiomes, to save threatened ecosystems.

“As a network of leading scientists, we are concerned that the technological development of a tool that we urgently need will be delayed by unclear and undefined risk assessment steps,” said Professor Emeritus. KAUST marine scientist Carlos Duarte, who is executive director of the Coral Research and Development Acceleration Platform (CORDAP).

“Furthermore, no ethical discussion is available to provide guidelines and rules to expedite the transition from conception to application of environmental probiotics in a practical and safe manner. Therefore, we highlight the path from concept to real-world solutions, addressing ethical considerations, as well as risk versus benefit.

The document serves to fill this gap. The framework also takes into account the risk of inaction and can be adapted to other pressing scientific developments.

“Our framework provides a pragmatic wildlife-friendly regulatory tool to guide scientists and stakeholders in addressing biodiversity loss,” Peixoto said. “It takes into consideration the potential side effects of its application, while taking into account the high cost of inaction.”


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