University of Helsinki: Embracing mountain microbiome and ecosystem functions under global change

“Mountains comprise unique environment for living organisms and contribute strongly to global biodiversity and ecosystem functions” says Janne Soininen, professor of spatial environmental research from University of Helsinki. He is one of the writers of a recent review article about mountain microbial biodiversity and its role in ecosystem functioning published in a journal New Phytologist.

Mountains have provided classic study systems for investigating plant and animal diversity for over 250 years. In the recent decade, the exploration of microorganisms on mountainsides has also achieved substantial progress. The review highlights that microbial communities show climatic zonation along elevational gradients, consistent with traditional climatic hypotheses and largely similar to what has been found for plants and animals. The microbial elevational patterns are driven mainly by deterministic processes suggesting that abiotic environmental factors and biotic interactions shape the communities in mountains.

Shift from biodiversity patterns to deeper understanding
“Our review revealed a major research shift from documenting patterns of biodiversity towards identifying the mechanisms that shape microbial biogeography and how these patterns vary under global change” says the main writer of the review, professor Jianjun Wang from Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is important to understand more the mechanistic basis of microbial communities and mountain ecosystems. Authors thus propose some cutting-edge perspectives to advance future research in mountain microbial biogeography. These would include the focus on biodiversity hypotheses and theory, investigating novel abiotic and biotic drivers that have been omitted in the studies thus far, meta-ecosystem framework, trait-based approaches and manipulative field experiments.

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