Linking regional shifts in microbial genome adaptation with surface ocean biogeochemistry

Catherine A. Garcia, George I. Hagstrom, Alyse A. Larkin, Lucas J. Ustick, Simon A. Levin, Michael W. Lomas, Adam C. Martiny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Linking 'omics measurements with biogeochemical cycles is a widespread challenge in microbial community ecology. Here, we propose applying genomic adaptation as 'biosensors' for microbial investments to overcome nutrient stress. We then integrate this genomic information with a trait-based model to predict regional shifts in the elemental composition of marine plankton communities. We evaluated this approach using metagenomic and particulate organic matter samples from the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. We find that our genome-based trait model significantly improves our prediction of particulate C: P (carbon: phosphorus) across ocean regions. Furthermore, we detect previously unrecognized ocean areas of iron, nitrogen and phosphorus stress. In many ecosystems, it can be very challenging to quantify microbial stress. Thus, a carefully calibrated genomic approach could become a widespread tool for understanding microbial responses to environmental changes and the biogeochemical outcomes. This article is part of the theme issue 'Conceptual challenges in microbial community ecology'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190254
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1798
StatePublished - May 11 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Elemental stoichiometry
  • Metagenomics


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