Complex microbial communities control the breakdown of dead plant material in terrestrial ecosystems. This project aims to link enzyme genes involved in litter decomposition with specific groups of bacteria and fungi. In collaboration with Mike Goulden, Adam Martiny, Jennifer Martiny, and Kathleen Treseder at UCI and Eoin Brodie at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, we will use clone libraries to assign enzyme genes to specific microbial taxa and measure the response of these taxa to nitrogen addition and drought. We will also manipulate microbial community composition and assess resilience in response to environmental change. A mathematical model will be implemented to predict rates of litter decomposition based on microbial community composition and enzymatic function in our experimental treatments. In addition to defining the role of microbial communities as drivers of ecosystem processes, this project may lead to the discovery of novel genes and enzymes involved in the metabolism of dead plant material.
Funded by DOE Genomic Science Program