Defining the functional traits that drive bacterial decomposer community productivity

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Microbial communities are essential to a wide range of ecologically and industrially important processes. To control or predict how these communities function, we require a better understanding of the factors which influence microbial community productivity. Here, we combine functional resource use assays with a biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) experiment to determine whether the functional traits of constituent species can be used to predict community productivity. We quantified the abilities of 12 bacterial species to metabolise components of lignocellulose and then assembled these species into communities of varying diversity and composition to measure their productivity growing on lignocellulose, a complex natural substrate. A positive relationship between diversity and community productivity was caused by a selection effect whereby more diverse communities were more likely to contain two species that significantly improved community productivity. Analysis of functional traits revealed that the observed selection effect was primarily driven by the abilities of these species to degrade β-glucan. Our results indicate that by identifying the key functional traits underlying microbial community productivity we could improve industrial bioprocessing of complex natural substrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1680-1687
Number of pages8
JournalThe ISME Journal
Issue number7
Early online date21 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017.


  • Bacteria/classification
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biodiversity
  • Soil Microbiology

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