(November 19, 2015)
Current Themes in Ecology 2015:Microbial Power Impact of microbial communities: from gut to globe
Microorganisms form the largest source of total biomass and biodiversity on our planet. They play a critical role in elemental cycling in natural ecosystems, providing nutrients, clean air and water. Moreover, they are fundamental in the functioning of man-made or managed systems (e.g., wastewater treatment plants, agricultural fields, industrial bioreactors). Furthermore, as they are capable of producing compounds for bio-fuel production, plastics and chemicals, it is clear that they can play an eminent role in the transition to more sustainable societies.
In sharp contrast to their global importance, many basic aspects of microbial communities and their functioning in ecosystems are poorly understood. For instance, we know little about:
• The identity and properties of the vast majority of species in the environment;
• Which assembly processes lie at the basis of the composition of microbial communities?
• What are the main drivers of their survival and functioning in the environment and how can we link ecosystem functions to community structure or even individuals?
• How resilient are microbial communities to disturbance and what is the role of community structure in this matter?
• Are microbial communities functionally redundant or do keystone species exist?
• How do we extrapolate micro-scale processes to macro scale ecosystem services?
• Can we manipulate or engineer microbial communities to tackle global challenges?
To know whether we can manipulate or engineer microbial communities to tackle global challenges, these questions need to be answered. In the 21st Current Themes in Ecology Symposium, international specialists on the topic will take up the challenge to address the above questions using the plant-, animal-, human-, soil-, water-, and climate system.