Review: Embracing the unknown: disentangling the complexities of the soil microbiome ($)

The soils microbiome is of course hugely complex and immensely variable. Metagenomics tools allow us to describe the diversity of the soil microbiome, but what that diversity means is best grasped when the microbiome is considered in terms of its ecological functions, as described in this Tansley Insight by Fierer. These ecological functions include numerous biogeochemical processes affection soil chemistry, such as carbon cycling, alterations in the bioavailability of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N), and redox changes in other nutrients including sulfur (S), manganese (Mn) and iron (Fe). The author also observes that the Competitor – Stress Tolerator – Ruderal framework is an effective way to think meaningfully about the organisms that make up the soil microbiome (and he provides examples of species that fall into each category).  Nat. Rev. Microbio. 10.1038/nrmicro.2017.87