About this Research Topic
Variability in the environment is determined by the interactions between physical and chemical conditions and it defines the diversity of habitats. As a core feature, habitats are characterized by fluctuations in physical, resource, and biological conditions, often determining specific micro-niches - here defined as the external surroundings in which organisms live and tend to influence their development and behavior - within the same habitat. These fluctuations drive (micro)organisms and communities' energy, mass, and momentum exchange which set the thermodynamic bounds on life. For example, the temperature in hot deserts or the oxygen in aquatic environments can be highly fluctuating rather than homogenous in space and time. However, we still lack a comprehensive framework to accurately assess micro-niche variability in order to measure the actual biological responses across diverse habitats. Thus, assessing the effect of environmental fluctuations on the adaptation of individuals, populations, and communities at ecologically relevant scales is a challenging task; it requires the collection of long term in-situ environmental data, over long (e.g., [pluri]annual), medium (e.g., seasonal) and/or short (e.g., daily) scales from many environmental descriptors of the micro-niche to which (micro)organism are exposed to.
Advances in data logging enable environmental fluctuations to be described with unprecedented detail and precision in space and time (up to micrometric scales), leading to a growing recognition of the fact that environmental dynamics are much more variable than previously thought. This provides promising grounds for investigation into the mechanisms underpinning how biological communities adapt to these fluctuations. This Research Topic aims to bring together contributions that re-shape our understanding of how environmental variability and its predictability (i.e., the regular cycling of an environmental variable across time) drive population and community assembly across fluctuating habitats, ranging from deserts to coastlines and even urbanized environments.
We welcome research articles that study the effect of environmental variability and its predictability on the ecology and evolution of macro- (e.g., plants and ectotherms animals) and micro-organisms, at population and community levels, preferentially using molecular techniques, from habitats experiencing environmental fluctuations. Studies may be based on time-series showing the magnitude of the environmental fluctuation and can include modeling, dynamic experiments, molecular, ecological, and evolutionary approaches. We welcome contributions on themes including but not limited to:
• The influence of high environmental fluctuations on population adaptation and community and assembly in situ and in silico;
• Models, analytical approaches, and computational developments for studying environmental fluctuations on micro to large spatio-temporal scales and their interacting effects on species, communities, and ecosystems;
• The impact of stochastic (e.g., rain event in deserts) and/or non-random environmental changes (e.g., tides) on macro and microbial communities and populations;
• Comparative multi-omics analytic approaches on stressed and relaxed environmental communities in response to environmental variability and predictability;
• Epigenetic variation and population plasticity in response to environmental variability and predictability.
Keywords: Environmental variability, Fluctuating habitats, Diversity, Community assembly, Ecosystem structure
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.