Microorganisms play a crucial role in ecosystem performance and functioning. They are ubiquitous, possess enormous genetic, metabolic and physiological potential and are responsible for virtually all biogeochemical cycling processes. Ecosystems are composed of several trophic levels which interact with each other. In order to understand the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, we thus need to take into account these multiple trophic levels.
The aim of the Microbial Interaction Ecology group is to gain a better understanding of the ecology of microbial systems and the importance of microbial biodiversity for ecosystem functioning by incorporating the interactions within and between trophic levels. Next to applying a variety of molecular biological tools for field samples (PCR-based screening, next-generation sequencing, FISH, stable-isotope probin, -omics..) this also requires testing established ecological theories with microbial systems. Our group focuses on the interactions of all major microbial players (prokaryotes, viruses, protists and fungi) and on plant-microbe interactions. The interactions among these groups are the basis for (microbial) food webs, the transfer of nutrients to higher trophic levels and the stability and resilience of microbial systems and processes.
The research topics of the group cover:
- the importance of biotic/chemical interactions between bacteria, viruses (bacteriophages), protists,fungi and plants for ecosystem services,
- the resilience and stability of prokaryotic ecosystem services,
- the biodiversity of prokaryotes, protists and phages,
- the use of microbial model systems to address ecological theory,
- the transfer and establishment of degradative traits and antibiotic resistance via plasmids.