About this Research Topic
Landscape ecology is the study of the causes and ecological consequences of spatial patterns in landscapes. For more than 30 years, spatial processes that influence biodiversity, primarily of plants and animals, have been explored. Application of landscape ecology principles to microorganisms has been slow to develop, due to our limited understanding of microbial habitat requirements and our limited capacity for spatially extensive surveys of microbial distributions, as well as the historic view that microbial taxa have no meaningful dispersal limits. Advances in technology have enabled recent applications of landscape ecology concepts such as habitat patchiness, connectivity, and dispersion to microorganisms, resulting in a new understanding of microbial community rules of assembly. However, such applications are rare, likely because microbial ecology has not yet fully appreciated how important these concepts are to the microbial world.
Understanding of the landscape-level drivers of microbiota complexity is important in a broader ecological context because of the tremendous role these microorganisms play in many ecological functions (e.g. carbon and nutrient cycles, resistance of organisms to stressors, behaviors and reproduction, etc.). Next generation sequencing approaches have demonstrated that microorganism communities encompass tremendous taxonomic diversity, including bacteria, archaea, fungi and protozoa. Interactions among free-living microorganisms, and among and between the microbiota and its hosts deeply impact ecosystem-level attributes, including host fitness. Existing research has focused on a large set of drivers, mostly acting at a local scale, demonstrating the strong impact of the abiotic environment, and of biotic interactions among microbial organisms or with their host. Studies taking into account drivers operating at higher biological scales (metacommunity or metapopulation scales) remain rare. Such drivers should be important, either directly by impacting the microbial dispersal into local populations, or indirectly by affecting host distribution. These drivers could be operating at a large range of geographical scales, from meters or smaller to kilometers or bigger.
The aim of this Research Topic is to assemble a set of papers from leaders in the emerging field of microbial landscape ecology, to better understand how landscape ecology concepts could be applied to the microbial world, and to illustrate how microbial systems can be used to test and extend existing theory. The collection will include research papers using landscape and meta-community concepts, as well as perspective and opinion papers. All ecosystems will be considered (including aquatic, terrestrial and marine) as well as any kind of host-microbiota interactions. We are particularly interested in the following topics:
1. Metacommunity theory applied to microbial assemblage spatio-temporal dynamics. Space has to be taken into account at least implicitly.
2. Landscape ecology concepts applied to pathogens or symbionts. Both studies focused on particular taxa (i.e. pathogen spread) and on multi-species assemblages (microbiota) will be considered. Landscape has to be explicitly taken into account by measurements of its characteristics (heterogeneity, isolation, etc.).
3. Dispersal ecology applied to microbial assemblages with a spatial approach. Biogeographical approaches can be considered as long as dispersal mechanisms are considered (not habitat-driven mechanisms only).
4. Evolutionary and ecological processes impacting organism landscapes.
Keywords: Micro-organisms, Microbiota, Metacommunities, Assembly rules, Spatial scale