It’s all about strategy: Trait-based life-history strategies for complex bacterial communities

Focus on traits and resource allocation tradeoffs can be used to better understand succession in bacterial communities under varying perturbations.

Sep 09, 2019
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Through our lives we face tradeoffs in the way we allocate resources (e.g. time, money) towards maximizing our relevant objective functions: happiness, professional development, health, etc. This happens not only at the individual level but also to organizations, societies and countries. Anyone who has ever played strategy games (e.g. Age of Empires) know this well, how you use your resources to grow your economy and your military decides your fate in the game.

It turns out that something similar occurs to communities of bacteria in wastewater treatment bioreactors when faced against varying perturbations, as we show in our most recent study published at Environmental Microbiology: http://bit.ly/Santillan2019-EnvMicro

Towards our ultimate goal of managing complex microbial communities [1], we employed a life-history strategy framework from plant ecology [2, 3] to enable the simplification of complex trait information into a few ecologically relevant elements, while at the same time offering a suitable management tool for characterizing changes in community structure and ecosystem function in response to perturbations.

The results from this work are relevant for microbial ecology as they represent the first time that Competitor – Ruderal – Stress-tolerant life-history strategies are (i) proposed at the whole-community level by assessing community aggregated traits; (ii) supported by a combination of ordination methods, network analysis, and genotypic information from metagenomics and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing; and (iii) evaluated for complex microbial communities in an environment other than soil.

Have a look at this work and let us know your thoughts!


References:    

[1] Santillan, E., Seshan, H., Constancias, F., Drautz-Moses, D.I., and Wuertz, S. (2019) Frequency of disturbance alters diversity, function, and underlying assembly mechanisms of complex bacterial communities. NPJ Biofilms Microbiomes 5: 8. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41522-019-0079-4

[2] Grime, J.P. (1977) Evidence for the existence of three primary strategies in plants and its relevance to ecological and evolutionary theory. Am Nat 111: 1169–1194.

[3] Grime, J.P., and Pierce, S. (2012) The Evolutionary Strategies that Shape Ecosystems, Vol. 2012. West Sussex; Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Ezequiel Santillan

Research Fellow, Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), Nanyang Technological University

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