Novel Metric Examines the Role of Organic Matter and Microbes in Ecological Communities

Individual features in a community, like microbes or types of chemicals, affect the overall community’s development and help determine the similarity of different communities over time and space. Scientists developed a novel ecological metric, called βNTIfeat, that helps to investigate the roles of different features in community development. The resulting information can inform models of how ecosystems respond to disturbances such as climate change.

Soil microbes help plants cope with drought, but not how scientists thought

In a multi-generation experiment, researchers from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) found microbes helped plants cope with drought, but not in response to plants’ cries for help. Instead, the environment itself selected for drought-tolerant microbes. And while those hardy microbes were doing their thing, they just happened to make plants more drought-tolerant, too.

Predicting Changes in Microbial Food Webs

Increasing temperature or nutrients in an ecosystem can destabilize food webs, but when temperature and nutrients increase together it can be difficult to predict the combined effects. This study examined a laboratory microbial food web consisting of bacterial prey and protist predators. It found that temperature and nutrients can alter the dynamics of microbial communities by changing how species’ abundances and average body sizes relate to each other.

UNLV Study Sheds Light on Ancient Microbial Dark Matter

Omnitrophota are nano-sized bacteria first discovered 25 years ago. Though common in many environments around the world, until now they’ve been poorly understood. An international research team produced the first large-scale analysis of Omnitrophota genomes, uncovering new details about their biology and behavior. The team’s findings are reported in the March 16 issue of the journal Nature Microbiology.

Watching Plant Roots Grow in a Transparent Simulated Soil

The rhizosphere, the underground ecological zone between and around plant roots, is difficult to study. Scientists have now developed a rhizosphere-on-a-chip with a transparent simulated soil structure that allows researchers to view how roots grow over time through the pores in the soil. Paired with specialized mass spectrometry techniques, scientist can also use the rhizosphere-on-a-chip to map the location of root-exuded molecules, like amino acids, without hurting the plant.