Microorganisms are critical in terrestrial carbon cycling because their growth, activity and interactions with the environment largely control the fate of recent plant carbon inputs as well as protected soil organic carbon [1, 2]. Soil carbon stocks reflect a balance between microbial decomposition of organic carbon and stabilisation of microbial assimilated carbon. The balance can shift under altered environmental conditions , and new research suggests that knowledge of microbial physiology may be critical for projecting changes in soil carbon and improving the prognosis of climate change feedbacks [4,5,6,7]. Still, predicting the ecosystem implications of microbial processes remains a challenge. Here we argue that this challenge can be met by identifying microbial life history strategies based on an organism’s phenotypic characteristics, or traits, and representing these strategies in ecosystem models.
Bibliographical noteWe acknowledge funding from the US DOE Genomic Science Program, BER, Office of Science project DE-SC0016410. We thank Bin Wang for discussion and inputs on trait-based modelling.
- climate-change impacts
- microbial ecology
- soil microbiology
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