Antibiotics used on livestock can impact microbes in the soil and negatively affect soil carbon, thereby reducing resilience to climate change, according to a study conducted in the Trans-Himalayan region of India.
Livestock can affect soil microorganisms
A study conducted in the Himalayan regions of India claims that antibiotics used in livestock can affect soil microorganisms. They can negatively affect soil carbon, thereby reducing resilience to climate change.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), retaining soil organic carbon can reduce climate change, land degradation and world hunger, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gases caused by human activities.
Results of the study published in February in Global Change Biology, Native herbivores such as yak, bharal (blue sheep), kiang (wild ass) and ibex were found in the Spiti Valley of India’s Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh to be more important for soil carbon than domestic cattle such as goat, sheep and horse, according to the study.
Found good The carbon use efficiency of microbial organisms in the soil was found to be 19 per cent lower under domestic animals, the study said.
Disrupt soil microbial communities
Researchers established 30 matched livestock-fenced stakes alongside native grasses over the period 2005 to 2016, and investigated their differential effects on soil carbon. It also aimed to explore the different effects of livestock grazing and native grass grazing on plants and microorganisms.
Livestock can disrupt soil microbial communities, which negatively affects carbon use efficiency and ultimately soil carbon, says Sumanta Bagchi, assistant professor at the Center for Ecological Sciences Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru.
Evidence from the study points to a link between antibiotics used in veterinary medicine and declining soil microbial populations. Our study suggests that conserving native grasses, along with better livestock management, can go a long way toward better-managing soil carbon to achieve natural solutions to climate change, Bagchi says.
The study assessed factors that affect the quality and quantity of soil carbon, such as dead plant matter, microbial biomass and microbial community composition, as well as traces of veterinary antibiotics in the soil.
It was found that Spiti’s cattle were frequently treated with antibiotics such as tetracycline. During this time, veterinary care for local herders, such as yaks, was rare and virtually impossible to find among ibex and bharal.
Rapid development of antibiotic resistance
Soil analysis showed that areas of land where cattle were exclusively grazed contained almost three times more tetracycline residues than those of native herbivores. Soil analysis showed that reductions in antibiotic residues were found in areas with land except grazing animals, and that reductions were highest in areas with livestock.
“Our research has focused on climate impacts associated with the use of antibiotics for animal husbandry, but other unintended consequences may also arise, such as the rapid development of antibiotic resistance,” Bagchi says.
Krishna Gopal Saxena said the misuse of antibiotics in animal husbandry is certainly a serious and growing phenomenon, including adverse effects on soil microbes and soil organic carbon. Saxena is an independent ecosystem conservation consultant and former president of the School of Environmental Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Saxena said, however, that the overuse of antibiotics in animal husbandry is partly to blame for carbon depletion in the soils of India’s Gangetic plains and climate change. Factors causing soil carbon loss include irrigation, the use of chemical fertilizers instead of organic fertilizers, temperature and rainfall, and climate change itself.
Rising temperatures from climate change and antibiotics in animal dung are known to disrupt the function of soil microbes, resulting in fewer soil microbes being able to trap carbon, says Malvika Chaudhary, a biocontrol specialist with CABI’s office in India.
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