Analyses of natural communities forming soil crusts agree with laboratory studies of isolated microbe-metabolite relationships.
Far from barren, arid lands host diverse communities of bacteria and other microbes. The biocrust these communities form affects local and global resources. The residents of these communities are dormant through long, dry spells, but are active when it rains. While it’s obvious that the community consumes more when it’s active, scientists need more details. Previous research used simplified tests to identify which community members thrived and which didn’t during wet and dry seasons. Now, a team examined microbes in their more complex native setting. They found the same patterns.
This study sheds new light on the microbial communities that make up the biocrust. While that might seem like a small detail, 40 percent of the world’s land is arid. These communities affect the soil chemistry. That chemistry affects water availability, soil fertility, and the movement of nutrients and energy. This study gets us closer to understanding the complex microbial food webs and their impact on the global carbon cycle.
Scientists can determine the structure and metabolic potential of microbial communities by established metagenomic approaches. However, linking microbial species data to exogenous metabolites that microbes process and produce (the exometabolome) is still a challenge. A group of scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined microbe-metabolite relationships in native biological arid soil crusts (biocrusts) upon changes in water availability. The water levels are a critical factor affecting metabolic activity in these ecosystems. The researchers discovered that those relationships are consistent with previous laboratory tests using bacterial isolates from the same ecosystems. Overall, most soil metabolites displayed the expected correlation with four dominant bacteria over time, after it rained. The results show that scientists can successfully combine metabolite profiling, shotgun sequencing, and exometabolomics to link microbial community structure with environmental chemistry. Such research techniques can shed light on biological carbon cycling processes in arid environments.
Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Office of Science, Department of Energy
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The Office of Science Early Career Research Program, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Office of Science, Department of Energy funded this research. DNA was sequenced using the Vincent J. Coates Genomics Sequencing Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
T.L. Swenson, U. Karaoz, J.M. Swenson, B.P. Bowen, and T.R. Northen, “Linking soil biology and chemistry in biological soil crust using isolate exometabolomics.” Nature Communications 9, 19 (2018). [DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02356-9]
SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER
Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]
Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]
Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]
Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]
Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]
List all highlights (possible long download time)