Importance of Contextual Information for Harnessing Microbial Resources from Polar Regions



With growing interest in scientific and commercial pursuits extending up to the poles, new challenges for both environmental diplomacy and governance could be envisaged. Polar regions could be veritable store house for harnessable microbes either for their products, by products or the processes they could mediate. Strategies for understanding their ecology before probing them for application value would be the need of the hour. Prokaryotic biosphere is a permanent essence of whole systems. The fluxes of matter and energy and the microbes that mediate them are of central importance for understanding any ecosystem before managing them. Yet, the stress has been more on the components than on the linkages. Moreover, it would be pertinent to put biological and biodiversity perspectives in place for efficiently harnessing the living resources. Bioactive molecules have been hitherto explored with least considerations of these aspects of ecology. However constitutive the production of a certain metabolite could be, microbes delinked from their ecosystems may not produce a compound optimally or consistently. To address these aspects it would be fundamental to understand the production of a certain metabolite in response to the contextual parameters including geographical location and environmental variables. Emergent properties of interactions and the products thereof would give a new perspective to bioprospecting microbes from extreme environment like the Arctic or the Antarctic. Microorganisms are known to be pivotal to these processes and insights into their lifestyle and fitness would augment and refine our ability to monitor, model and predict future changes. Such understanding of ecosystems in both spatial and temporal dynamics would help harness resources in a more consistent and sustainable manner. Concerted efforts in this direction could be encouraged on a war footing before the imminent climatic changes cascade into major shifts in the prevailing ecosystems and the services they have been rendering. International dialogue on collaborative projects could include ‘Information Flow and Intellectual Property Rights’ as one of the important themes.


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