A network-based approach to disturbance transmission through microbial interactions.
Microbes numerically dominate aquatic ecosystems and play key roles in the biogeochemistry and the health of these environments. Due to their short generations times and high diversity, microbial communities are among the first responders to environmental changes, including natural and anthropogenic disturbances such as storms, pollutant releases, and upwelling. These disturbances affect members of the microbial communities both directly and indirectly through interactions with impacted community members. Thus, interactions can influence disturbance propagation through the microbial community by either expanding the range of organisms affected or buffering the influence of disturbance. For example, interactions may expand the number of disturbance-affected taxa by favoring a competitor or buffer the impacts of disturbance when a potentially disturbance-responsive clade's growth is limited by an essential microbial partner. Here, we discuss the potential to use inferred ecological association networks to examine how disturbances propagate through microbial communities focusing on a case study of a coastal community's response to a storm. This approach will offer greater insight into how disturbances can produce community-wide impacts on aquatic environments following transient changes in environmental parameters.
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