Construction of vernal pools as a resource for eco-evolutionary research at ND-LEEF

  • Funded By: Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative
  • ECI Investigators: David Armitage, Stuart Jones

Construction of vernal pools as a resource for eco-evolutionary research at ND-LEEF

Bacteria underpin the biogeochemical cycles that humans depend on and derive ecosystem services from. Understanding the ecological processes that structure the immense diversity of bacterial communities and maintain their functioning may allow for better prediction of ecosystem processes under a variety of environmental change scenarios. Further, the short generation times, small body sizes, and the clonal nature of bacteria make bacterial communities useful systems for the study of interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes.

This research at ND-LEEF forwards ecological theory focused on metacommunities, microbial eco-evolutionary dynamics, diversity-function relationships, and the storage effect. The storage effect is a proposed mechanism for the maintenance of biodiversity in variable environments. A test of this theory requires quantifying lineage-specific responses to environmental variation. Pairing a time-series of lineage-specific activity and dormancy periods to rates of nutrient mineralization would represent an important step towards a mechanistic and predictive understanding of microbial ecology. There have been very few empirical tests of the storage effect, and our proposed study represents the first to investigate this phenomenon in microbial communities. This experimental approach is among the first to generate replicated time-series data for a complex, semi-natural microbial community. The data will analyze using a novel method for nonlinear ecological forecasting called empirical dynamic modeling. The successful application of this modeling approach to molecular time-series data would represent a proof-of-concept for its general utility as a tool for ecological inference.

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