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Bacteria: a thermometer from the past

New regional MIREN paper, with MIREN members Jonas Lembrechts and Ivan Nijs!

It was at a lunchtime seminar of our research group that Cindy De Jonge introduced a new concept to me (Jonas): using variation in cell membrane lipids (affectionately called brGDGT lipids by those who love them) as a thermometer for the past: these molecules remain super stable in soils and sediments (for millions of years!), and their structure can be related to environmental conditions when the organism lived. What makes them most interesting as a ‘paleothermometer’ is that at the global scale, their distribution in soils changes with mean annual air temperature (and soil pH).

However, there was a lot of remaining noise, so I learned, and Cindy was on a mission to find out what else was happening. As I was working hard on the role of soil temperature – rather than air temperature – as driver of ecological patterns, we figured there was a beautiful match. What if we would go to our elevational gradients in northern Scandinavia, where we had in-situ measurements of soil temperatures across a 1200 meter gradient, and took soil samples there?

A new MIREN project was born! Read the full story of the paper here!

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