The plant microbiota signature of the Anthropocene as a challenge for microbiome research

Gabriele Berg*, Tomislav Cernava

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Background: One promise of the recently presented microbiome definition suggested that, in combination with unifying concepts and standards, microbiome research could be important for solving new challenges associated with anthropogenic-driven changes in various microbiota. With this commentary we want to further elaborate this suggestion, because we noticed specific signatures in microbiota affected by the Anthropocene. Results: Here, we discuss this based on a review of available literature and our own research targeting exemplarily the plant microbiome. It is not only crucial for plants themselves but also linked to planetary health. We suggest that different human activities are commonly linked to a shift of diversity and evenness of the plant microbiota, which is also characterized by a decrease of host specificity, and an increase of r-strategic microbes, pathogens, and hypermutators. The resistome, anchored in the microbiome, follows this shift by an increase of specific antimicrobial resistance (AMR) mechanisms as well as an increase of plasmid-associated resistance genes. This typical microbiome signature of the Anthropocene is often associated with dysbiosis and loss of resilience, and leads to frequent pathogen outbreaks. Although several of these observations are already confirmed by meta-studies, this issue requires more attention in upcoming microbiome studies. Conclusions: Our commentary aims to inspire holistic studies for the development of solutions to restore and save microbial diversity for ecosystem functioning as well as the closely connected planetary health. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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