Current frontiers in soil biodiversity research: time to move from patterns to processes?
With: Dr. Tancredi Caruso, Queen's University of Belfast
Soil biodiversity is enormous, with millions of species and billions of individuals forming one of the most complex biological community on Earth. With the advent of high throughput molecular methods, we can quantify patterns of soil biodiversity better than ever and find new, exciting ways to look into terrestrial ecosystem structure and functions. And yet, we still have a poor understanding of the processes that structure ecosystems. We know, for example, better than ever how many species live at a given place but are, too often, missing the processes that bring species together and drive their future population trajectories, and the consequences of these processes on the cycling of matter and fluxes of energy.
In this talk, I will offer an overview of our current understanding of the processes that structure soil biodiversity. I will also touch on the methods we need to progress on the pathway from patterns to processes with a focus on the relative roles of selection (e.g., environmental filtering, biotic interactions) and stochastic factors (e.g., dispersal) on the community dynamics of soil bacteria, fungi, and microarthropods. I will explore how molecular tools can help us advance the state-of-the-art and discuss experimental platforms that will help us unravel the role of soil biodiversity in ecosystem processes.