Scratching the surface of soil microbial diversity
By Kelly Ramirez:
I recently wrote a post for my blogging group Early Career Ecologists. Briefly, I discuss a recent paper out by Dr. Noah Fierer and colleagues in PNAS, where they used metagenomic techniques to explore soil microbial communities of 16 soils from across five biome types. I chose to write about this publication because it exemplifies the amazing progress made in sequencing techniques and microbial ecology in such a short period of time. Our understanding of soil communities has grown rapidly, and as researchers work to put the massive amounts of data into context we are learning that soil communities operate in a very similar way as above ground communities (soil pH, temperature, precipitation and nutrients are, not surprisingly, large drivers of community composition and diversity). We have also clearly established that everything is not everywhere, though we can find organisms with similar life history traits in similar biomes. And we are now starting to discover that community patterns are mirrored in gene patterns, and those patterns are controlled by a complex mix of environmental conditions and community interactions (something else we are just beggining to scratch the surface of).