Bridging the gap between omics and earth system science to better understand how environmental change impacts marine microbes

Thomas Mock, Stuart Daines, Richard Geider, Sinead Collins, Metovi Metoviev, Andrew J Millar, Vincent Moulton, Timothy Lenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


The advent of genomic-, transcriptomic- and proteomic-based approaches has revolutionized our ability to describe marine microbial communities, including biogeography, metabolic potential and diversity, mechanisms of adaptation, and phylogeny and evolutionary history. New interdisciplinary approaches are needed to move from this descriptive level to improved quantitative, process-level understanding of the roles of marine microbes in biogeochemical cycles and of the impact of environmental change on the marine microbial ecosystem. Linking studies at levels from the genome to the organism, to ecological strategies and organism and ecosystem response, requires new modelling approaches. Key to this will be a fundamental shift in modelling scale that represents micro-organisms from the level of their macromolecular components. This will enable contact with omics data sets and allow acclimation and adaptive response at the phenotype level (i.e. traits) to be simulated as a combination of fitness maximization and evolutionary constraints. This way forward will build on ecological approaches that identify key organism traits and systems biology approaches that integrate traditional physiological measurements with new insights from omics. It will rely on developing an improved understanding of ecophysiology to understand quantitatively environmental controls on microbial growth strategies. It will also incorporate results from experimental evolution studies in the representation of adaptation. The resulting ecosystem-level models can then evaluate our level of understanding of controls on ecosystem structure and function, highlight major gaps in understanding and help prioritize areas for future research programs. Ultimately, this grand synthesis should improve predictive capability of the ecosystem response to multiple environmental drivers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

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