Microbial Ecology

The interactions, population dynamics, and distributions of microbes are fundamentally important to both environmental and human health. Although there is great benefit in understanding the biology and ecology of microbes for their own sake, there is also broader ecological knowledge to be gained from the study of microbes. Increasingly, ecologists ask if microbes follow the same ecological ‘rules’ as macro-organisms. Systems microbial ecologists build simplified microbial communities from the ground up to test existing hypotheses about the rules governing species coexistence and competitive dynamics. Microbial biogeographers study the assembly and distributions of microbial communities across space, both independently of and jointly with the free-living species with which they associate. Regardless of scale, the unique biology of microbes provide ecologists with a puzzle in terms of unifying ecological theories.

This Collection highlights recent work using microbes to investigate fundamental questions in ecology and evolution. The Interactions section explores recent advances in characterizing predator-prey, host-parasite and symbiotic relationships involving microbes. The Competition and coexistence section demonstrates how the perennial ecological question of how species can stably coexist is modified when considering the unique ways that microbial competitors interact. The Community assembly section considers the microbial community as a whole, asking how community compositions assemble and change across space and time (e.g. developmental, ecological, and evolutionary timescales). Finally, the Contributions to ecosystem function section showcases how microbes play critical roles in host function and ecosystem function.

Nature Communications welcomes high-impact papers that advance understanding of basic ecology in the world of microbes.


Competition and coexistence


Contributions to ecosystem function