Impact Factor



Front. Microbiol., 19 December 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2012.00417

Fundamentals of microbial community resistance and resilience

  • 1Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
  • 2Institute of Ecology/Limnology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 3Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA
  • 4Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 5Department of Ecology and Genetics/Limnology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 6Department of Surface Waters – Research and Management, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Kastanienbaum, Switzerland
  • 7Department of Biology and Gus R. Douglass Institute, West Virginia State University, Dunbar, WV, USA
  • 8Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
  • 9Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI, USA

Microbial communities are at the heart of all ecosystems, and yet microbial community behavior in disturbed environments remains difficult to measure and predict. Understanding the drivers of microbial community stability, including resistance (insensitivity to disturbance) and resilience (the rate of recovery after disturbance) is important for predicting community response to disturbance. Here, we provide an overview of the concepts of stability that are relevant for microbial communities. First, we highlight insights from ecology that are useful for defining and measuring stability. To determine whether general disturbance responses exist for microbial communities, we next examine representative studies from the literature that investigated community responses to press (long-term) and pulse (short-term) disturbances in a variety of habitats. Then we discuss the biological features of individual microorganisms, of microbial populations, and of microbial communities that may govern overall community stability. We conclude with thoughts about the unique insights that systems perspectives – informed by meta-omics data – may provide about microbial community stability.

Keywords: microbial ecology, disturbance, stability, sensitivity, structure-function, perturbation, community structure, time series

Citation: Shade A, Peter H, Allison SD, Baho DL, Berga M, Bürgmann H, Huber DH, Langenheder S, Lennon JT, Martiny JBH, Matulich KL, Schmidt TM and Handelsman J (2012) Fundamentals of microbial community resistance and resilience. Front. Microbio. 3:417. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2012.00417

Received: 01 October 2012; Paper pending published: 14 October 2012;
Accepted: 19 November 2012; Published online: 19 December 2012.

Edited by:

Cyrille Violle, CNRS, France

Reviewed by:

Anthony Yannarell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago, USA

Copyright: © 2012 Shade, Peter, Allison, Baho, Berga, Bürgmann, Huber, Langenheder, Lennon, Martiny, Matulich, Schmidt and Handelsman. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Jo Handelsman, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, 219 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. e-mail: jo.handelsman@yale.edu

Ashley Shade and Hannes Peter have contributed equally to this work.