Although microbes are incredibly diverse and important for biogeochemical cycles, most large-scale models of the Earth system do not explicitly include microbes. Since microbes (and their enzymes) ultimately drive these cycles, it may be difficult to predict how ecosystems respond to environmental change without directly addressing microbial mechanisms. We are integrating models from the micron to the global scale in order to discover tractable ways of incorporating microbial communities in large-scale models. Our models are parameterized with data collected from the field and laboratory, and have stimulated new empirical work on the temperature sensitivity of extracellular enzyme kinetics. The challenge is to aggregate diverse microbial communities across space and time to build models that optimize the tradeoff between realism and feasibility.
Funded by DOE Terrestrial Ecosystem Science