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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2015 Oct;91(10). pii: fiv113. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiv113. Epub 2015 Sep 13.

Linking microbial community structure and microbial processes: an empirical and conceptual overview.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA raven.bier@gmail.com.
2
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
3
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499, USA.
4
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado, UCB 397, Boulder, CO 80309-0397, USA Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, UCB 450, Boulder, CO 80309-0450, USA.
5
Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, 47405, USA.
6
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, UCB 450, Boulder, CO 80309-0450, USA.
7
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.
8
Départment des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, H3C3P8, Canada.
9
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
10
US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA 94025-3561, USA.

Abstract

A major goal of microbial ecology is to identify links between microbial community structure and microbial processes. Although this objective seems straightforward, there are conceptual and methodological challenges to designing studies that explicitly evaluate this link. Here, we analyzed literature documenting structure and process responses to manipulations to determine the frequency of structure-process links and whether experimental approaches and techniques influence link detection. We examined nine journals (published 2009-13) and retained 148 experimental studies measuring microbial community structure and processes. Many qualifying papers (112 of 148) documented structure and process responses, but few (38 of 112 papers) reported statistically testing for a link. Of these tested links, 75% were significant and typically used Spearman or Pearson's correlation analysis (68%). No particular approach for characterizing structure or processes was more likely to produce significant links. Process responses were detected earlier on average than responses in structure or both structure and process. Together, our findings suggest that few publications report statistically testing structure-process links. However, when links are tested for they often occur but share few commonalities in the processes or structures that were linked and the techniques used for measuring them.

KEYWORDS:

experimental duration; experimental perturbation; microbial community composition; microbial processes; microbially mediated ecosystem function; structure–function relationship

PMID:
26371074
DOI:
10.1093/femsec/fiv113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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