Engineering microbial technologies for environmental sustainability: choices to make

Willy Verstraete, Keren Yanuka-Golub, Nele Driesen, Jo De Vrieze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbial technologies have provided solutions to key challenges in our daily lives for over a century. In the debate about the ongoing climate change and the need for planetary sustainability, microbial ecology and microbial technologies are rarely considered. Nonetheless, they can bring forward vital solutions to decrease and even prevent long-term effects of climate change. The key to the success of microbial technologies is an effective, target-oriented microbiome management. Here, we highlight how microbial technologies can play a key role in both natural, i.e. soils and aquatic ecosystems, and semi-natural or even entirely human-made, engineered ecosystems, e.g. (waste) water treatment and bodily systems. First, we set forward fundamental guidelines for effective soil microbial resource management, especially with respect to nutrient loss and greenhouse gas abatement. Next, we focus on closing the water circle, integrating resource recovery. We also address the essential interaction of the human and animal host with their respective microbiomes. Finally, we set forward some key future potentials, such as microbial protein and the need to overcome microphobia for microbial products and services. Overall, we conclude that by relying on the wisdom of the past, we can tackle the challenges of our current era through microbial technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-227
Number of pages13
JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Microbial Biotechnology published by Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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