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Microbiology: Free-for-all On The Leaf Surface

For the first time, ETH Zurich scientists have examined the genes and proteins of bacteria that live on leaves to clarify which unicellular organisms are found on leaf surfaces and what they are doing there.

Bacteria are everywhere: in the ground, on the seabed, in boiling hot sources, in the gut. They are even on the surface of plants, and lots of them at that: one to ten million of the unicellular microorganisms live on every square centimeter of stem and foliage. At one billion square kilometers, the entire plant surface is estimated to be four times bigger than that of the earth, thus making the so-called phyllosphere “the largest biological surface inhabited by microorganisms”, as Julia Vorholt, a professor at the Institute of Microbiology at ETH Zurich, puts it. The bacteria in this ecosystem are so numerous that they influence the vital global carbon cycle.
 
 

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