Date of Original Version
It is increasingly accepted that the microbial symbionts of eukaryotes can have profound effects on host ecology and evolution. However, the relative contribution that they make directly to ecosystem processes, like energy and nutrient flows, is less explicitly acknowledged and, in many cases, only poorly constrained. Here, I explore the idea that, in some habitats, host-associated microbes may have an outsized role in ecosystem processes relative to functionally equivalent free-living microbes due to key aspects of the physiology, ecology, and evolution of symbiotic interactions. My research quantifying symbiont metabolism has shown that microbial symbionts have the potential to make a substantial impact on carbon and sulfur cycling. It is my perspective that direct measurement of symbiont activity and comparison to free-living counterparts will expand our understanding of the significance of microbial symbioses and, more broadly, the role of microbial processes in ecosystems.
Beinart, R. A. (2019). The Significance of Microbial Symbionts in Ecosystem Processes. mSystems, 4(3), e00127-19. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00127-19
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00127-19
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