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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Microbial functional diversity: From concepts to applications.

  • Author(s): Escalas, Arthur
  • Hale, Lauren
  • Voordeckers, James W
  • Yang, Yunfeng
  • Firestone, Mary K
  • Alvarez-Cohen, Lisa
  • Zhou, Jizhong
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5670
Abstract

Functional diversity is increasingly recognized by microbial ecologists as the essential link between biodiversity patterns and ecosystem functioning, determining the trophic relationships and interactions between microorganisms, their participation in biogeochemical cycles, and their responses to environmental changes. Consequently, its definition and quantification have practical and theoretical implications. In this opinion paper, we present a synthesis on the concept of microbial functional diversity from its definition to its application. Initially, we revisit to the original definition of functional diversity, highlighting two fundamental aspects, the ecological unit under study and the functional traits used to characterize it. Then, we discuss how the particularities of the microbial world disallow the direct application of the concepts and tools developed for macroorganisms. Next, we provide a synthesis of the literature on the types of ecological units and functional traits available in microbial functional ecology. We also provide a list of more than 400 traits covering a wide array of environmentally relevant functions. Lastly, we provide examples of the use of functional diversity in microbial systems based on the different units and traits discussed herein. It is our hope that this paper will stimulate discussions and help the growing field of microbial functional ecology to realize a potential that thus far has only been attained in macrobial ecology.

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