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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
†Ashley Shade and Hannes Peter have contributed equally to this work.