Compound- and context-dependent effects of antibiotics on greenhouse gas emissions from livestock
The use of antibiotics in livestock production may trigger ecosystem disservices, including increased emissions of greenhouse gases. To evaluate this, we conducted two separate animal experiments, administering two widely used antibiotic compounds (benzylpenicillin and tetracycline) to dairy cows over a 4- or 5-day period locally and/or systemically. We then recorded enteric methane production, total gas production from dung decomposing under aerobic versus anaerobic conditions, prokaryotic community composition in rumen and dung, and accompanying changes in nutrient intake, rumen fermentation, and digestibility resulting from antibiotic administration. The focal antibiotics had no detectable effect on gas emissions from enteric fermentation or dung in aerobic conditions, while they decreased total gas production from anaerobic dung. Microbiome-level effects of benzylpenicillin proved markedly different from those previously recorded for tetracycline in dung, and did not differ by the mode of administration (local or systemic). Antibiotic effects on gas production differed substantially between dung maintained under aerobic versus anaerobic conditions and between compounds. These findings demonstrate compound- and context-dependent impacts of antibiotics on methane emissions and underlying processes, and highlight the need for a global synthesis of data on agricultural antibiotic use before understanding their climatic impacts.
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