Current Articles

Understanding microbiomes through trait-based ecology

Ecology is the study of the interactions amongst organisms and their environment1. In microbial ecology, a major goal is to understand how environmental microbiomes impact ecosystem health and function. This desire to mechanistically link micro and macro processes is increasingly highlighting the importance of functional ecology, which aims to develop an understanding of relationships using functional traits, as opposed to species names. A functional trait may be any morphological or physiological trait that influences the performanc...

Jennifer L Wood and Ashley E Franks     16 February 2018

Incorporating fungal community ecology into invasion biology: challenges and opportunities

Recently, the role of the plant-associated mycobiome (i.e. the fungal community) in influencing the competitive success of invasive plant species has received increasing attention. Fungi act as primary drivers of the plant invasion process due to their ability to form both beneficial and detrimental relationships with terrestrial plant species. Here we review the role of the plant mycobiome in promoting or inhibiting plant species invasion into foreign ecosystems. Moreover, the potential to exploit these relationships for invasive plant control...

Eleonora Egidi and Ashley E Franks     16 February 2018

Establishing microbial baselines to identify indicators of coral reef health

Microorganisms make a significant contribution to reef ecosystem health and resilience via their critical role in mediating nutrient transformations, their interactions with macro-organisms and their provision of chemical cues that underpin the recruitment of diverse reef taxa. However, environmental changes often cause compositional and functional shifts in microbial communities that can have flow-on consequences for microbial-mediated processes. These microbial alterations may impact the health of specific host organisms and can have repercus...

Bettina Glasl, David G Bourne, Pedro R Frade and Nicole S Webster     16 February 2018

Microbial cooperation improves bioleaching recovery rates

Whilst bioleaching is primarily used to recover minerals from low-grade ores, the increasing demand for Rare Earth elements combined with supply chain concerns is opening up new avenues of extraction from mine tailings, waste products and recyclable materials. Exploration of new, novel and economically viable techniques are required to manage the coming shortage and volatility of global markets with more environmentally sound alternatives to traditional mining operations holding the key.

Melissa K Corbett and Elizabeth LJ Watkin     16 February 2018

The importance of resolving biogeographic patterns of microbial microdiversity

For centuries, ecologists have used biogeographic patterns to test the processes governing the assembly and maintenance of plant and animal communities. Similarly, evolutionary biologists have used historical biogeography (e.g. phylogeography) to understand the importance of geological events as barriers to dispersal that shape species distributions. As the field of microbial biogeography initially developed, the utilisation of highly conserved marker genes, such as the 16S ribosomal RNA gene, stimulated investigations into the biogeographic pa...

Alexander B Chase and Jennifer BH Martiny     19 February 2018

Emerging microbiome technologies for sustainable increase in farm productivity and environmental security

Farming systems are under pressure to sustainably increase productivity to meet demand for food and fibre for a growing global population under shrinking arable lands and changing climatic conditions. Furthermore, conventional farming has led to declines in soil fertility and, in some cases, inappropriate and excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has caused soil degradation, negatively impacting human and environmental health. The soil and plant microbiomes are significant determinants of plant fitness and productivity. Microbes ...

Brajesh K Singh, Pankaj Trivedi, Saurabh Singh, Catriona A Macdonald and Jay Prakash Verma     21 February 2018

Manipulating the soil microbiome for improved nitrogen management

The soil microbiome, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, viruses, and other microbial eukaryotes, has crucial roles in the biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen (N), the maintenance of soil fertility, and the plant N use efficiency (NUE) in agro-ecosystems1. Recent advances in omics-based technologies (e.g. metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics) have expanded our understanding of the soil microbiome and their controls on specific N-cycling processes13. Given the growing N-based fer...

Hang-Wei Hu and Ji-Zheng He     21 February 2018

Life without water: how do bacteria generate biomass in desert ecosystems?

Many of the world's most arid deserts harbour surprisingly diverse communities of heterotrophic bacteria. These organisms persist in surface soils under extreme climatic conditions, despite lacking obvious energy inputs from phototrophic primary producers. A longstanding conundrum has been how these communities sustain enough energy to maintain their diversity and biomass. We recently helped to resolve this conundrum by demonstrating that some desert communities are structured by a minimalistic mode of chemosynthetic primary production, where a...

Sean Bay, Belinda Ferrari and Chris Greening     21 February 2018

Rock-art microbiome: influences on long term preservation of historic and culturally important engravings

The Burrup Peninsula in north-west Western Australia is home to one of the most substantial collections of rock engravings, or petroglyphs, in the world. These petroglyphs are carved through the dark coloured patina, commonly referred to as rock varnish, into the weathering rind of the local parent rock. Rock varnish is essentially a thin layer of manganese (Mn) and iron (Fe) oxides and hydroxides with embedded clay minerals, the formation of which is relatively poorly understood. It is generally considered to be a hostile environment for micro...

Deirdre B Gleeson, Matthias Leopold, Benjamin Smith and John L Black     22 February 2018

The geomicrobiology of mining environments

As the global population increases, so does the demand for minerals and energy resources. Demand for some of the major global commodities is currently growing at rates of: copper – 1.6% p.a.1; iron ore: 1.4% p.a.2; aluminium – 5% p.a.3; rare earth elements – 7% p.a.4, driven not only by population growth in China, India, and Africa, but also by increasing urbanisation and industrialisation globally. Technological advances in renewable energy production and storage, co...

Talitha C Santini and Emma J Gagen     22 February 2018

Engineering biological nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment via the control of nitrite oxidising bacteria using free nitrous acid

Nitrogen compounds need to be removed or captured from wastewater streams before disposal to protect our aquatic environments from eutrophication. Particular bacteria facilitating the biological removal of nitrogen during wastewater treatment include ammonia oxidising bacteria (AOB), nitrite oxidising bacteria (NOB), denitrifiers, as well as anaerobic ammonium oxidising (Anammox) bacteria. Manipulating these microbial communities can improve efficiency in nitrogen removal. Bypassing nitrate production by selectively inhibiting NOB reduces the n...

Andrew Elohim Laloo and Philip L Bond     21 February 2018

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