The role of ecological theory in microbial ecology

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 May;5(5):384-92. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1643.


Microbial ecology is currently undergoing a revolution, with repercussions spreading throughout microbiology, ecology and ecosystem science. The rapid accumulation of molecular data is uncovering vast diversity, abundant uncultivated microbial groups and novel microbial functions. This accumulation of data requires the application of theory to provide organization, structure, mechanistic insight and, ultimately, predictive power that is of practical value, but the application of theory in microbial ecology is currently very limited. Here we argue that the full potential of the ongoing revolution will not be realized if research is not directed and driven by theory, and that the generality of established ecological theory must be tested using microbial systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Ecology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Sulfolobus / growth & development
  • Systems Theory*
  • Water Microbiology