, Volume 289, Issue 1-2, pp 59-70
Date: 19 Oct 2006

Bridging the gap between micro - and macro-scale perspectives on the role of microbial communities in global change ecology

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In order to understand the role microbial communities play in mediating ecosystem response to disturbances it is essential to address the methodological and conceptual gap that exists between micro- and macro-scale perspectives in ecology. While there is little doubt microorganisms play a central role in ecosystem functioning and therefore in ecosystem response to global change-induced disturbance, our ability to investigate the exact nature of that role is limited by disciplinary and methodological differences among microbial and ecosystem ecologists. In this paper we present results from an interdisciplinary graduate-level seminar class focused on this topic. Through the medium of case studies in global change ecology (soil respiration, nitrogen cycling, plant species invasion and land use/cover change) we highlight differences in our respective approach to ecology and give examples where disciplinary perspective influences our interpretation of the system under study. Finally, we suggest a model for integrating perspectives that may lead to greater interdisciplinary collaboration and enhanced conceptual and mechanistic modeling of ecosystem response to disturbance.