Microbial Ecology

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 259–263 | Cite as

Defining Disturbance for Microbial Ecology

  • Craig J. PlanteEmail author


Disturbance can profoundly modify the structure of natural communities. However, microbial ecologists’ concept of “disturbance” has often deviated from conventional practice. Definitions (or implicit usage) have frequently included climate change and other forms of chronic environmental stress, which contradict the macrobiologist’s notion of disturbance as a discrete event that removes biomass. Physical constraints and disparate biological characteristics were compared to ask whether disturbances fundamentally differ in microbial and macroorganismal communities. A definition of “disturbance” for microbial ecologists is proposed that distinguishes from “stress” and other competing terms, and that is in accord with definitions accepted by plant and animal ecologists.


Disturbance Stress Microbe Perturbation Macroorganism 



Contribution # 487 of the Grice Marine Laboratory.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grice Marine Laboratory, Biology DepartmentUniversity of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

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