Applying landscape genetics to the microbial world

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Landscape genetics, which explicitly quantifies landscape effects on gene flow and adaptation, has largely focused on macroorganisms, with little attention given to microor- ganisms. This is despite overwhelming evidence that microorganisms exhibit spatial genetic structuring in rela- tion to environmental variables. The increasing accessi- bility of genomic data has opened up the opportunity for landscape genetics to embrace the world of microorgan- isms, which may be thought of as ‘the invisible regula- tors’ of the macroecological world. Recent developments in bioinformatics and increased data accessibility have accelerated our ability to identify microbial taxa and characterize their genetic diversity. However, the influ- ence of the landscape matrix and dynamic environmental factors on microorganism genetic dispersal and adapta- tion has been little explored. Also, because many microorganisms coinhabit or codisperse with macroorgan- isms, landscape genomic approaches may improve insights into how micro- and macroorganisms recipro- cally interact to create spatial genetic structure. Conduct- ing landscape genetic analyses on microorganisms requires that we accommodate shifts in spatial and tem- poral scales, presenting new conceptual and methodologi- cal challenges not yet explored in ‘macro’-landscape genetics. We argue that there is much value to be gained for microbial ecologists from embracing landscape genetic approaches. We provide a case for integrating landscape genetic methods into microecological studies and discuss specific considerations associated with the novel challenges this brings. We anticipate that microor- ganism landscape genetic studies will provide new insights into both micro- and macroecological processes and expand our knowledge of species’ distributions, adaptive mechanisms and species’ interactions in chang- ing environments.

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Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • Macquarie University, Sydney
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences

Keywords

  • dispersal ecology, ecological genomics, landscape genetics, macroorganisms, microorganisms, species interactions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3266-3275
JournalMolecular Ecology
Volume25
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 14
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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