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Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services$
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Diana H. Wall, Richard D. Bardgett, Valerie Behan-Pelletier, Jeffrey E. Herrick, T. Hefin Jones, Karl Ritz, Johan Six, Donald R. Strong, and Wim H. van der Putten

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199575923

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199575923.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

The Biogeography of Microbial Communities and Ecosystem Processes: Implications for Soil and Ecosystem Models

The Biogeography of Microbial Communities and Ecosystem Processes: Implications for Soil and Ecosystem Models

(p.189) Chapter 3.5 The Biogeography of Microbial Communities and Ecosystem Processes: Implications for Soil and Ecosystem Models
Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services

Mark A. Bradford

Noah Fierer

Oxford University Press

Soil microbial communities drive the biogeochemical cycling of elements at local to global scales. The biogeography of these communities is a product of the contemporary environment and historical contingencies arising through dispersal constraints. Therefore we need to understand how microbial communities – independent of the contemporary environment – influence biogeochemical process rates. Mathematical models describing ecosystem process rates make the simplifying assumption that microbial communities do not influence biogeochemistry independent of the environment, an assumption which is formalized under the hypothesis of functional equivalence. This chapter highlights uncertainties in projections of climate change to illustrate potential limitations of assuming functional equivalence when representing microbial dynamics in soil models. Implicit representation of microbes in models evokes the principles of invariance, probability, and simplicity: characteristics of classical physics but not biological entities such as soils. The chapter defines the hypotheses of functional redundancy, similarity, and equivalence, and argues that soil ecologists seeking to test the ‘black box’ assumption in models should focus their efforts on the hypothesis of functional equivalence. It concludes that soil microbial communities are homogenously functioning units across space and time, which exhibit invariant functional responses to changes in controlling factors such as temperature, even where microbial biomass differs.

Keywords:   carbon cycle models, ecosystem function, functional redundancy, functional similarity, functional equivalence, microbial biogeography, microbial biomass, soil carbon, soil models

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