Microbial Ecology in South Asia

South Asia encompasses diverse ecological regions ranging from the high altitude Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. Considered as the most densely populated zone, this territory spans 5.1 million square kilometers inhabited by 1.7 billion people living with the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The regions is a hotspot of biodiversity and is biologically unique with multiple zones of biotic patterns due to complex biogeography. The importance of habitat-specific microbiomes in different eco-regions with their genetic information is realized as broader applications in agriculture, industry, medicine, food, bioremediation, etc. While psychrotolerants and psychrophiles from the extreme cold environment of the Himalayas are the source of cold-active enzymes and novel bioactive compounds, thermophiles from the hot springs are the source of thermotolerant enzymes of industrial and biotechnological importance. This implies a huge potential of applied microbial ecology in South Asia. However, translation of information pragmatically requires in-depth understanding the role of microbiome, impact of environmental factors on them and multifaceted interactions among them. 

South Asia is the most vulnerable region due to impacts of climate change, thus the microbial ecology is under the threat in this region. Tropical diseases like dengue and malaria spread to and being endemic in high altitude temperate regions of Nepal is an example of the effect of climate change. A high rate of deforestation, increased population, discharge of untreated solid and liquid waste in the natural bodies, air pollution, etc. have created negative impact on microbiome community of the environment. The magnitude and the dynamics of the threat on the diversity of the microbes in this region is still elusive. Therefore, research in the area of microbial ecology to a greater extent is indispensable and has potential to contribute for human welfare. Apart from this, research in microbial ecology is an interdisciplinary approach with involve the areas of microbiology, omics approach, biochemistry, bioinformatics, environmental science, health and social sciences, etc. Thus, a sustainable network to foster a collaborative research among the researchers within and beyond this region is indispensable. This will help build a strong community of microbial ecology which will also help execute quality research with impactful outcome. In addition, this network and collaborative effort will provide platform for early career researchers and students and empower them to build their future path of research.