While natural microbial communities are composed of a mix of microbes with often unknown functions, the construction of synthetic microbial communities allows for the generation of defined systems with reduced complexity. Used in a top-down approach, synthetic communities serve as model systems to ask questions about the performance and stability of microbial communities. In a second, bottom-up approach, synthetic microbial communities are used to study which conditions are necessary to generate interaction patterns like symbiosis or competition, and how higher order community structure can emerge from these. Besides their obvious value as model systems to understand the structure, function and evolution of microbial communities as complex dynamical systems, synthetic communities can also open up new avenues for biotechnological applications.
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