Linkages among specialized microbial communities across LTER landscapes: Developing the metacommunity concept
Recent research in a broad range of environments suggests that microbial communities are well-adapted and fine tuned to local environmental conditions and available resources. Across landscapes this creates a patchwork of localized communities that together compose the "landscape microbial metacommunity." A metacommunity is defined as a set of local communities that are linked by dispersal of multiple, potentially interacting species. One key mechanism by which communities interact on landscapes is downslope water flow, which moves organisms and materials between habitats. In this way, diverse microbial communities cooperate in the processing of materials (e.g., organic matter, nutrients) that move across landscapes from soils and groundwater to streams and hyporheic zones to lakes, rivers, and coastal oceans. This working group will discuss how the phylogenetic, genomic, and functional diversity of microbial communities differs among various habitats within landscapes, compare mechanisms of community assembly and species sorting, and develop a conceptual framework for how these communities collectively contribute to ecosystem functions that emerge at the landscape scale. We ask participants to be prepared to share their perspectives on the microbial communities at their LTER site in relation to landscape features, and the mechanisms by which these communities influence those in neighboring and downslope environments.