A paper from Mitch Sogin and Hilary Morrison et al
A microbial community’s functional capability—what it eats, what it produces—is thought by some to be more meaningful than the identities of its members. Functional redundancy in bacterial communities thus allows communities to survive environmental disturbance even if the membership changes. Others believe that microbial communities change both composition and function when perturbed. We found evidence for a third response: resistance. We looked at the microbial community response to nutrient enrichment in salt marsh sediments using deep pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA and functional gene microarrays targeting the nirS gene (nitrogen metabolism). The community structure was unaffected by significant variations in nutrients at multiple sampling sites despite demonstrable changes in many aspects of marsh ecology. This demonstrates a remarkable uncoupling between microbial composition and ecosystem-level biogeochemical processes and suggests that sediment microbial communities are adaptable to environmental stresses.
Bowen, J. L., Ward, B. B., Morrison, H. G., Hobbie, J. E., Valiela, I., Deegan, L. A., and Sogin, M. L. (2011). “Microbial community composition in sediments resists perturbation by nutrient enrichment.” ISME J.