Community history affects the predictability of microbial ecosystem development

Pagaling, Eulyn; Strathdee, Fiona; Spears, Bryan M.; Cates, Michael E.; Allen, Rosalind J.; Free, Andrew. 2014 Community history affects the predictability of microbial ecosystem development. ISME Journal, 8 (1). 19-30.

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Microbial communities mediate crucial biogeochemical, biomedical and biotechnological processes, yet our understanding of their assembly, and our ability to control its outcome, remain poor. Existing evidence presents conflicting views on whether microbial ecosystem assembly is predictable, or inherently unpredictable. We address this issue using a well-controlled laboratory model system, in which source microbial communities colonize a pristine environment to form complex, nutrient-cycling ecosystems. When the source communities colonize a novel environment, final community composition and function (as measured by redox potential) are unpredictable, although a signature of the community’s previous history is maintained. However, when the source communities are pre-conditioned to their new habitat, community development is more reproducible. This situation contrasts with some studies of communities of macro-organisms, where strong selection under novel environmental conditions leads to reproducible community structure, whereas communities under weaker selection show more variability. Our results suggest that the microbial rare biosphere may have an important role in the predictability of microbial community development, and that pre-conditioning may help to reduce unpredictability in the design of microbial communities for biotechnological applications.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 1751-7362
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Freely available on the journal's website and at PubMed Central.
Additional Keywords: community similarity, ecosystem development, microcosms, predictability, rare biosphere
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 21 Jan 2014 12:00 +0 (UTC)

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